Back in bloom

(beijing weekend)
Updated: 2007-05-11 11:39

Last year's most popular drama, Secret love in Peach Blossom Land, is as much loved by its actors as by its audience. With the play set to begin its third season in Beijing next week, stars Huang Lei and Yuan Quan have each revealed they could not wait to get back into rehearsals. "I couldn't break away from this show," admitted Huang. "Since I took part in the performance last year, I couldn't stop thinking of the characters and plot of the play once I am free."

Back in bloom

Huang has just finished the shooting of the teleplay, The Family, adapted from writer Ba Jin's novel of the same title.

Working under high pressure for a few months, Huang looked much thinner than before. "But my image now caters well to the character of Jiang Binliu in this drama," said Huang, smiling. He said last year a few audience members criticized him, for being a little overweight to play the character in the drama.

Yuan has also garnered much interest, with the release of her first CD last month. The album's hit song is also the drama's theme song.

"I don't have a chance to sing the song on the drama stage. But I love the play so much, thus I choose to sing it in my album," said the actress.

Huang and Yuan are joined in the cast by famous variety show hosts, He Jiong and Xie Na.

As Taiwanese drama master Stan Lai's best-known work, the play premiered in 1986 and has won both popular and critical acclaim. It has been performed worldwide, and the film version, directed by Lai in 1992, has won honors at various international film festivals.

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the play, Lai directed a new version in 2006. Apart from a few lines adapted to the contemporary context, the mainland version largely retains the original structure and content of the play.

The drama actually involves two drama troupes, taking turns to rehearse two plays on one stage: Secret Love and Peach Blossom Land. The former play, a modern tragedy, is about a man named Jiang Binliu (Huang) who meets and is then separated from his lover, Yun Zhifan (Yuan) during wartime in Shanghai. Unbeknown to the other, each flees to Taiwan. Four decades later, Jiang is an old man lying on his deathbed in a Taipei hospital. He recalls the past, desperate to see his lover.

The second piece, a farce, is a comic interpretation of an ancient poem by poet, Tao Yuanming. It is about a fisherman (played by Yu Tai'en) who stumbles into a utopian land filled with blossoming peach trees where people live in harmony but without any historical memory.

Two theater groups are mistakenly booked into the same theater for rehearsal. They therefore fight for the stage, and eventually resign to sharing it.

The two productions merge in a comic clash of contrasting dialogue and styles. And this becomes the leading feature of the show, interweaving tragedy and comedy on one stage and combining melodrama, verbal comedy and slapstick.

Price: 50-880 yuan.
Time: 7:30 pm, May 10-13.
Address: Poly Theater, 14 Dongzhimen Nandajie, Dongcheng district.
Tel: 010-6501-1854.