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A whole new ball game

Updated: 2023-09-09 07:21 ( CHINA DAILY )
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Feng Yuanzheng (second from right) and Xu Ang (second from left) at the news conference. CHINA DAILY

In The Club, power struggles between the characters and attitudes toward commercialism are explored. One of the lines pertaining to that subject, which Feng came up with during the rehearsal — "soccer is your whole life, but it's only a business to me" — will also be featured in the new version.

"Back in 2002, in China, the concept of soccer club management was alien to many, and we invited Zhang Lu, Chinese soccer commentator and former vice-president of the Chinese Super League team Beijing Guoan, to the theater to teach us about how soccer clubs work and what being part of one is about," recalls Feng. "Now, the profile of the game is much higher, and the concept of a soccer club is much clearer to Chinese people, with domestic soccer evolving into an industry, more than just a sport.

"However, the play is more than just a story about a soccer club. Many of the discussions and attitudes talked about in the play are still relevant and fairly accurate, such as competitiveness, a desire for success, loyalty and ruthless business interests, although some of the situations have changed over the time, since the play was written during the 1970s," says Feng. "Williamson has made a study of human issues, such as jealousy, envy, greed and sentimentality, with a play featuring six characters competing for power."

Young actors Zhao Zhengtian and Gong Jiahao will play the role of Danny and Geoff, respectively. Both of them are soccer fans and have been playing the sport for fun since they were children.

"I enjoy the tension in the play and the fierce verbal battle among the characters," says Zhao, who joined the theater about four years ago. "I love playing soccer and dreamed about becoming a soccer player. Now, I am about to realize my dream, albeit in a different way, on the stage, which is cool."

According to Feng, The Club hasn't been staged by the theater for many years because of a lack of young actors. Last year, when the theater worked on its plan for the new year, the play was on the schedule.

"We have a lot of young talent joining the company over the past three years and we try to offer them as many opportunities to perform as possible. These young people receive training from the veteran actors and actresses of the theater during the daytime and play minor roles onstage at night. Our goal is to have them adapt to being actors and actresses of Beijing People's Art Theatre, which has won the hearts of its audiences with its own acting style," says Feng.

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