Theater: Get in a school daze

Theater: Get in a school daze

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

Since it’s now technically autumn in Beijing (liqiu, the start of fall on the Chinese lunar calendar was a couple weeks ago), it’s getting close to that time when children get ready to return to school. With that in mind, I bring to you three vastly different theatrical performances to choose from this weekend: one “old skool”, one school dazed and one about actual school.

The “old skool” performance is none other than the Peking Opera Farewell My Concubine. And yes, if you’re thinking of the movie directed by Chen Kaige, then you’re halfway there. This opera is the poignant drama that inspired the novel (and then the movie), and it is very deserving of this epic homage. Taking place during the battles for the unification of China that eventually led to the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), the story tells of the love and devotion of Xiang Yu, emeporer of Western Chu, and his favorite concubine, Yu Ji. I’ll not say any more (I’d hate to give away the ending, although if you’ve seen the movie you’ve got a pretty good idea), but there’s a great cast of Peking Opera stars, and with an incredibly long run this is guaranteed to be a stellar show. Farewell My Concubine @ Chang’an Theater; until Aug 25. Tickets on 6510-1309 or 65101310. In Chinese.

For the school-dazed, there is Jingwei Fairytale, which seems to have been inspired by too much glue sniffing in the back of the classroom. While the psychedelic nature of the actors in bright fairy and flower costumes might seem a bit much, it’s a show targeted at children and has already become a favorite with young Beijingers. For parents in attendance, even if you can’t understand the dialogue, there’s always the fun of trying to figure out exactly which sort of creatures each of the actors is meant to be. Jingwei Fairytale @ the Great Hall of the People, Friday and Saturday, Aug 19-20. Tickets on (8610) 6309-6935 (Chinese only).

From afternoon daydreams to actual classroom drama, I bring you Once, a hip contemporary play highlighting a cast of up and coming actors. It focuses on the light-hearted comedy of school days gone by, reminiscing just long enough to touch upon darker topics, but not long enough to depress you (always a plus with Chinese drama). Written for the “post-80s” crowd who have fond memories of how much simpler life was back in school, Once centers on a group of friends in middle school and follows them as they make decisions that affect their lives as adults. Featuring stand-out costuming (I’m a big fan of the awesome, unisex sweat pants and jacket that make up Chinese school uniforms) and hip-hop music, this show is very different from the others shows but just as entertaining. Once @ Daguanyuan Theater at No 12 Nancaiyuanjie, Xuanwu district, until Aug 27. Tickets on (8610) 6351-9025.

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