Old-school comedy makes a comeback

By Zhang Kun | China Daily | Updated: 2019-08-16 08:26
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A House with 72 Tenants, a huajixi production Shanghai artist Wang Rugang has performed in. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The once popular humorous art form of huajixi has been given a modern makeover by the Shanghai Dujiaoxi Heritage Center, Zhang Kun reports.

From garbage sorting to elderly people obsessed with fake health products, the Shanghai Dujiaoxi Heritage Center has been pushing the boundaries of creativity with Chinese theater by creating new plays that revolve around contemporary topics.

One of these plays, Temptation on the Tip of Tongue, is about a fraudulent company that tricks elderly people into buying wine that is touted as a health miracle. The play will be presented during the Chinese Opera Festival at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center on March 30 and 31.

Supported by the China National Arts Fund, the play is the first production of the Shanghai Dujiaoxi Heritage Center, which was the result of a merger between the former Shanghai People's Huajiju Company and Shanghai Youth Huajiju Troupe. The new company, known as the Shanghai Dujiaoxi Heritage Center (Shanghai People's Huajiju Company), officially opened in August 2018.

Wang Rugang, the head of the center, will play one of the victims, a woman named Wang Cuihua. The 66-year-old was once hailed by critics as having "mastered the portrayal of elderly women" in stage productions. Wang Liping, a Shanghaibased playwright, even called him "Shanghai's No 1 grandma".

Wang Rugang recalled that he was enthusiastic about acting as a child and his talent was later recognized by master artists in the field of huajixi, or farce. However, his parents did not like the idea of their only son becoming a comedian. He explains that the performance genre used to be considered "rough and uncultured entertainment".

"My father used to be an architect, and all my cousins were professionals like engineers and medical experts. He didn't consider huajixi a decent career," Wang Rugang recalls.

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