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Modern drama valley kicks off in city

By ZHANG KUN in Shanghai | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-05-19 01:13
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Stage photos of Hamlet by the Alexandrinsky Theatre.  PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Shanghai has gathered theater artists from across the world to offer a two-week-long fiesta on stage where the West meets the East and the traditional meets the contemporary

Seventeen plays from eight countries are being presented during the annual Modern Drama Valley which is taking place in Shanghai from May 5 to 23.

Six of the 17 plays are being shown in China for the first time, while 14 of them are making their debut in Shanghai.

"Having so many shows premiering in the city means that we are the trendsetters and it shows how determined we are to develop Shanghai's cultural scene," said Huang Changyong, head of the Shanghai Theatre Academy, the co-host of the festival.

In contrast to previous editions when the festival was held only in Shanghai's Jing'an district, the event this year will spread across the city to theaters, communities, university campuses and public spaces in other areas. Audiences can also look forward to lower ticket prices this year as the organizers have provided financial subsidies to each production.

"We will cover part of the rent for each performance, subsidize the price of each ticket by 30 percent, and use all the public resources of the district to give these plays free publicity in the form of banners and advertisements in the metro and magazines," said Chen Hong, the district head of publicity.

These efforts have in turn helped to bring in some productions that were less performed in China, such as Mother Courage and Her Children by the Alexandrinsky Theatre from Russia. This is the first time this celebrated work by Bertolt Brecht is being presented by a European company in China.

Established in 1756, the Alexandrinsky Theatre is recognized as one of the most important theaters in Russia alongside the Mariinsky and Mikhailovsky theaters. The Alexandrinsky Theatre recently held two performances of Hamlet at Daning Theatre on May 12 and 13 which won praise from audiences and academics. Sun Mengjin, a Shanghai-based critic, said the theater's director Valery Fokin had "subverted Shakespeare" with this impressive production.

"Fokin cut off what he considered redundant in the Shakespeare play and created a crazy farce of rich imagination where his interpretation is presented," Sun said. "Fokin made a very compact show of 90 minutes. He has superb control and is poetic at heart."

There are a number of international productions adapted from Chinese literature, such as Two Swords by Polish director Grzegorz Jarzyna which was presented at the STA Experimental Theatre from May 5 to 7. The director brought together actors from China, Poland and the US to present the ancient Chinese legend about love, sacrifice and revenge, retold by modern author Lu Xun.

French director Didym Michel Andre also chose to adapt a story by Lu Xun. The True Story of Ah Q is presented by the Xinchan Centre for Theatre Arts in Beijing. Didym said he was a big fan of Lu Xun and had read five different translated editions of the story.

"Ah Q is a tragic character with a comic shell, like one of the homeless characters in the Charlie Chaplin movies," he said. "The theme goes beyond its time, or the location — it speaks about the human experience."

Aside from the opening production of An Ordinary World by the Shaanxi People's Art Theatre, the festival also consists of several other important Chinese productions such as The Yellow Storm by the National Theater of China, and Xiao Hong, a biographical play by the Tsitsihar Theater Troupe of northeastern China's Heilongjiang province.

A Moment of Remembrance by playwright and director Tian Qinxin was presented at the Majestic Theater from May 10 to 11. Han Hong, one of the most powerful figures in the contemporary Chinese pop music scene, was the composer and music director for the play, making it a star-studded musical production. Pop idols that starred in the production were Tan Weiwei, Yu Kewei, Wang Zhengliang and Jin Zhiwen.

"We have a rich cultural heritage surrounding theater in Jing'an," said Bao Yingjing, deputy head of Jing'an district.

"During the Modern Drama Valley this year, people will experience dramatic art not just in theaters but also every culture center, bookshop, museum, and even shop windows in the district."

Theater enthusiasts are also encouraged to visit the reading pavilion at Jing'an Park where they could read aloud a chosen episode of their favorite play, she added.

The annual Modern Drama Valley in Shanghai presents 17 plays from eight countries, many of them being adaptions of literature masterpieces from home and abroad.  PHOTOS PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY
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