History, classics and a fresh dash of comedy

(China Daily) Updated: 2011-05-31 07:42


Backstage with Elyse Ribbons

Bringing you a roundup of the best theater shows this week – because variety really is the spice of life.

This weekend has a couple of treats in store, including several revivals of note and a surprise encore performance of an original avant-garde piece.

On Saturday, Mei Lanfang Grand Theater, which is close to Chegongzhuang subway station, will stage a performance of You Long Xi Feng, a Peking Opera that roughly translates as “Playful Dragon and Phoenix”. The show starts at 2 pm, which is good timing if you want to go out for your normal Saturday night fare afterward.

Starring famed Peking Opera actor Liu Kuikui, You Long Xi Feng is a historical tale of a tragic love affair between a Ming emperor and a young peasant woman. After she became pregnant, he left her for another, but as the emperor could not have any more children, he eventually searched her out to find the eventual successor to the throne.

Based on the true story of infamous Ming emperor Zhu Houzhao, this opera is definitely worth a look, although I suggest you spend some quality time with Wikipedia to read up before going to the show. For tickets, call 5833-1211.

The National Center for the Performing Arts, west of Tian’anmen Square, has a self-stated vision to be “the supreme palace of performing arts in China”, and it doesn’t fail to live up to its own standard. At least not with the latest play selection, which includes Four Generations Living Together, June 3 to 12.

Based on the literary classic by Lao She, the play is about the juxtaposition of culture, family and the national upheaval in early 20th century Beijing. A stellar cast, including legendary actor Wang Gesheng, delves into the dramatic depths of interfamilial struggle with aplomb.

It should be noted, however, that like the rest of Lao She’s works, it’s best to expect tragedy and tears. A must-see for history lovers, but there are no English subtitles, so bringing a Chinese friend along is highly recommended. For tickets, call 6655-0000.

For a theatrical experience with other forms of stimulation (caffeine-wise), I definitely recommend checking out the new Trojan Theater in the Pingod apartment complex near Shuangjing.

Trojan Horse Theater, pronounced “Muma Juchang” in Chinese, is not only incredibly fun to say, but it’s also a fun addition to the alternative theater venues in Beijing.

Run by theater professionals who want to encourage young and upcoming talent, there’s a lot of care in the setup. With new play Crazy Man debuting this weekend, manager Su Dan says that it’s their “passion as artists that makes the Trojan Theater come alive”.

The sentiment is certainly obvious in the carefully laid out theater and cafe. While I can’t vouch for the play (the second run suggests audiences like it), the location can’t be beat. Call 5711-0860 for details.

While this weekend doesn’t offer a lot in the way of English language entertainment, there’s definitely a great variety of quality drama in Mandarin to check out. Go in with an open mind and you might find yourself surprised at the fun you’re having.

Got a show coming up? Contact METRO on 6499-5555 or e-mail details to metrobeijing@chinadaily.com.cn. Read more from Elyse on iheartbeijing.com/blog

(China Daily 05/31/2011)

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