A production of Richard III starring Kevin Spacey opens in Beijing on Friday, the first time a major Western theatre company has staged a work by Shakespeare in China's capital.
The three-night run at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in central Beijing is part of a push to attract world-class productions to China, where drama remains tightly controlled by government censors.
The production of Richard III, which tells the story of a villainous and power-hungry English king, is set in the modern day and draws parallels with dictatorial regimes around the world.
It reunites Spacey with the director of American Beauty, Sam Mendes, and is the work of the Bridge Project, a collaboration between the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in New York and London's Old Vic and Neal Street theatre groups.
The latest production -- the third by the Bridge Project, which was set up to make classical theatre for international audiences -- has already been staged in major world cities including London, Hong Kong and San Francisco.
Negotiations with the NCPA began more than 18 months ago in Hong Kong and BAM line producer Nick Schwartz-Hall, one of the organisers of the Bridge Project, said bringing the play to Beijing presented a new challenge.
"As opposed to going to Hong Kong or going to Europe, or even going to Singapore, there just hasn't been a lot of relationship-building," he said.
"There's not a lot of familiarity on either side with how a UK-US company works, and does business, versus how it's done here."
China's theatre scene is in the early stages of its development, with non-government troupes struggling to find space and funding and censors controlling what goes on stage.
Schwartz-Hall said the NCPA had asked to see a recording of the production, but had not requested any changes to be made for the Beijing staging.
The NCPA theatre, which opened ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was designed by French architect Paul Andreu and is a huge dome of titanium and glass surrounded by an artificial lake nicknamed "the egg".
Richard III is being shown as part of a series of Western classics at the NCPA that also featured a production of Moliere's "Le Malade Imaginaire" by La Comedie Francaise, the fabled French theatre group's China debut.