When games turn to battle
( 2004-01-14 08:54) (China Daily)
He assiduously prepares himself at home for the horrible movie "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
The German play "Leather Face,'' which is being staged on the Experimental Stage of the Beijing People's Art Theatre until January 31 grips the audience from the very beginning.
Directed by Guan Shan and starring two young Chinese performers, the 70-minute play is a co-production of the Lin Zhaohua Drama Studio and Goethe Institute Peking.
Lin, China's most renowned theatre director, is helping the domestic young devotees of drama to work on "Leather Face'' and last year's German play "Fire Face,'' because he wants to "bring theatre-goers at home more foreign contemporary plays.''
"Leather Face,'' written by Helmut Krausser, is still being staged in Germany.
Besides German works, he plans to introduce dramas from Britain, France and Italy in the near future.
Only a few contemporary European scripts are translated into Chinese and even fewer are staged in China.
However, it seems that "Leather Face'' is not a very effective choice, partly because the story and the background are far away from most Chinese people's lives today.
The play itself has been a sensational success in Europe since its premiere at Thalia Theatre Hamburg in 1994, just one year after its publication. Its triumphant reception by theatres all over Europe followed very soon after.
Born in 1964 in Esslingen, the playwright Krausser has experienced a very dramatic life. He was a gambler, night watchman, an extra in opera performances, a singer in a rock band and a journalist, amongst other things.
Not wholly voluntarily he spent six months as a tramp on the streets. His studies in provincial Roman archaeology, theatre and art history remain incomplete.
In 1993, he received the Tukan Award from the City of Munich for his novel "Melodies,'' as the best literary publication of that year.
And "Leather Face'' is the first of four plays he has written so far.
As the story goes, an idle young poet buys a chainsaw with his girlfriend's money in an attempt to shake off his anger at her infidelity and his unemployment.
Like Marshall McLuhan's "extension of man,'' this machine endows the young man with an incredible power over his environment, as he imitates the notorious Texas Leather Face.
But his neighbours complain as the sounds of the chainsaw become too loud. Then his girlfriend returns home early. The secret game is now subjected to a sober scrutiny. The rattling machinery of normality is switched on. His girlfriend is horrified.
The neighbour calls the police, who consider the girlfriend a hostage.
"Hey, I have a chainsaw! Do you have one too"'' Leather Face screams at one point. Police try to enter the house, posing as pizza delivery men.
The world becomes a battlefield. Little boys, now using tools that are too powerful, suddenly don't know what they should do and therefore pursue an infantile logic of confrontation.
He is experiencing himself from the perspective of being in a trench.
His lines become fast, pastoral, and strong.
"Something is going on out there. Full-blown brutality is taking over. I predict that in 10 years almost nobody will leave his steel-armoured home. To take a walk they will have to drive in armoured vehicles far out to the safer periphery,'' Leather Face muses.
More understanding for the opponent is emerging. Those who adhere to a militant logic must respect the police.
"We need the cops. There are blokes out there ... Cops too sometimes blindly attack the mob...if you have to chase serial killers all day long, you get pissed off "need to discharge "go overboard... I accept this... police derives from the Greek word polis "town, meaning civilization, we are living in a civilized manner, there is no way back. The state is the police. These are synonyms. We wanted it thus.''
In the end, the use of superior technology of long-range weapons prevails. Leather Face is taken down by a sniper and the hostage situation is resolved.
There is no longer anything that can be called either dramatic or surprising. All that Krausser does is to run the scenario that had been outlined in the very beginning, but he handles all this with virtuosity.
This drama for two characters is a variation on the theme "Who or what is moulding the imagination of the media-consumer"''
Horror movies, of course!
Krausser attempts to explore the unconscious mind in his work, where the main character is looking for ways to escape the conventions of everyday life. But subject matter of this nature is uncommon for domestic audiences, which can pose a problem when considering how to stage such a production.
As a dense contemporary farce this play is very convincing in Europe but not China today, although the young director Guan Shan told China Daily before its Beijing debut on Sunday: "If it was 10 years ago, Chinese audiences could not understand what 'he"does, but now, they, especially the youngsters face the same problem.''
While Yang Qing, the actress playing "his'' girlfriend, said: "Some details could suddenly enlighten me about some confusion in life, but we do have trouble in understanding and how to interpret certain actions in rehearsals.''
Yang's words somehow suggest it is a challenge for the Chinese crew and cast and naturally, for the audience as well.
We could not say Guan wrongly evaluates the mental implications for China's youth. Yes, they do face the same kinds of problems such as losing jobs, marital issues and lacking social identification. But the situation is still far from that of Western society, where Krausser's portrayal of the conflict between human beings and the material world appears much more desperate.
Krausser's plays are "sketched with ease'' according to some European critics. But the Chinese director and performers put great intensity into the entire production.
The result is that it fails to make audience understand why "his'' attitude and actions against the outside world are so extreme.
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