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Pulling together to stage a classic

New play, adapted from Lao She's Rickshaw Boy, takes a different route to previous versions, Chen Nan reports.

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-08 07:44
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Director Fang Xu. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Actor Zhao Zhen plays the role of Huniu, a woman he describes as "tough, hot-tempered, crafty, but good-hearted and unconditionally loving Xiangzi".

In 2019, Zhao played a female role in a Chinese play directed by Fang, titled The Story of Niu Tianci, adapted from Lao She's 1934 novel of the same title. The feedback from the audience inspired Zhao to take a swing at Rickshaw Boy.

"I can still remember that when I went to Tianjin with Fang Xu for a collaboration with a local theater in February 2023, we saw a woman on the street. The way she talked and her body language made both of us believe that she was exactly how Huniu looked like in real life," says Zhao. "That woman was my main inspiration in playing Huniu."

One of the best-known actresses in China who has successfully played Huniu is Siqin Gaowa, who is a consultant for Fang's play.

"Fang Xu and I have discussed the idea of turning Rickshaw Boy into a play for many years and now, it's happening," said Siqin Gaowa, who's 73 years old, at the announcement of the play in Beijing in October.

The actress has been out of the limelight for many years, but describes the role as one of the highlights of her acting career.

The play marked the end of the 7th Lao She Theater Festival, which pays tribute to the great writer and gathers theatrical productions from around the world.

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