Theater: Carnival of romance and revenge


Theater: Carnival of romance and revenge

Backstage with Elyse Ribbons: Bringing you a roundup of all the best theater shows this weekend – because variety is the spice of life.

While the oppresive heat hasn’t changed its tune in Beijing this week, the theater scene has taken a big turn from the revolutionary themes of last month, and are now exploring some more fun topics. Ya know, sex drugs and rock and roll! (Oh wait, no, that show didn’t make it through the censors!). But rather, there’s definitely some more fun and contemporary shows up this week, plus a fun peking opera show that would be worth the effort.

So instead of aforementioned sex drugs and rock and roll, there’s a fantastic new accoustic musical, “Carnival Time” by the young director Su Dan of Trojan Horse Theater (which I still think should change its English name to Muma Theater, thus avoiding all the obvious jokes!). As the pictures indicate, this show plays with colors and lighting, using them to heighten the emotional turmoil of the main character. A bad breakup is never a pleasant thing to relive, but the catharsis of the dream sequences are both beautiful and relevant to modern Chinese dating. As Su Dan has said “the hardest thing for people to do is create distance between themselves and love,” and the journey of Qiqi, the heroine, is painful, but also enlightening. On from August 3rd to August 14th (but off on Mondays).

However, not all love is based on proximity, in fact, the next play, “Flyin Dance” up at the People’s Arts Theater near Wangfujing, is about the blossoming of a love affair through online BBS forums. This play is based on the amazingly popular book of the same title written by Taiwanese author Cai Zhiheng (and for those of you beginning Mandarin readers out there, I highly recommend this book, it’s simple language and sweet story are very charming). And while I don’t want to give away the ending, I really should warn you, its a typical Chinese love story in that it ends in misery (though beautiful, bittersweet and meaningful misery!) so be prepared to shed some tears. Up at the People’s Arts Theater Experimental Stage until August 15th.

And finally, to round out this weekend’s romantic offerings (isn’t Chinese valentine’s day coming up soon?) I recommend you check out the peking opera play “Dui Hua Qiang” (which I’m poorly translating as “Dialogue of Spears”). As this is a very martial sort of peking opera, its ideal for people who are new to the art and don’t want to sit through woeful arias. About a young scholar who while on his way to Beijing for the imperial examination, but gets sick and is taken in by a kindly family. The daughter of the family teaches him marial arts and marries him and then gets pregnant. The following year the scholar leaves to take the exam, and upon winning a position, forgets about his first wife and marries another. Forty years later, the first wife and his son confront him, and challenge him to a fight. An awesome spear battle showing off peking opera acrobatics at their fines quickly ensues. A classic show with a great cast, definitely a must see. Saturday the 6th at the Meilanfang Theater near Chegongzhuang.

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