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Crocodile lurks ready to entertain audiences

Updated: 2024-03-30 08:43 ( China Daily )
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Damai's president He Mi (left) and Magnificent Culture's artistic director Wang Keran attend the conference for the two companies' strategic cooperation agreement. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Film and TV stars, a soprano, a cross-talk actor and theater performers from the Chinese mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong, as well as an international production crew, gathered to produce a new play, adapted from Nobel laureate Mo Yan's script.

Mo Yan's Crocodile, the first script he penned after winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 2012, centers on Shan Wudan, a corrupt official pursued to the United States.

In the story, Shan is gifted a small crocodile as a birthday present. Over the course of a decade, as he nurtures and indulges it, the creature grows excessively, much like his own insatiable desires. The story digs into the depths of human nature and explores the themes of desire and decadence.

The production's stellar cast made their first group appearance at a news conference in Beijing on March 13, including Taiwan actor Winston Chao, playing the protagonist; Zhang Kaili, national first-class actress with the National Theatre of China; Hong Kong actress Sheren Tang; soprano Yao Hong, also vice-president of the China National Opera House; and xiangsheng (cross-talk) actor Bai Kainan.

"This is my first time taking a leading role in a play. The crew of Crocodile is an incredible team, with the director guiding the cast, as we actors support and uplift one another. I've entrusted myself to the director and the production crew, as I have full confidence in them," Chao says.

Wang Keran, director of the production and the artistic director of Beijing-based drama company Magnificent Culture, explained at the conference that the play features many intricate characters.

"Each character represents a certain type of person, embodying the complexity of human nature. They offer a rich tapestry of myriad human traits," Wang says.

The production also comprises a crew of international artists, such as Japanese composer Shigeru Umebayashi, and stage, costume and lighting designs by a group of French theater artists.

Tickets for Crocodile, which will premiere in Beijing on Aug 30 and will run to Sept 1, have already gone on sale. The production will tour major cities.

The play is co-produced by Magnificent Culture and online ticketing platform Damai's theater brand, Mailive, which have been collaborating on its creation since February. The two companies reached a strategic cooperation agreement at the conference, aiming to harness their resources and creativity, to work together extensively, such as in content creation, and coproduce high-quality theater productions with artistic, cultural and intellectual depth, as well as promote productions in the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions.

He Mi, Damai's president, says the strategic partnership of the two sides came as a natural fit, with the creative concepts and resources offered by Magnificent Culture, and Damai's advantage as a ticketing platform, being able to connect more broadly with audiences of live performances in China.

"The efficient connection between content and users is crucial for expanding market potential," He says. "We aim to bring new opportunities and growth to both parties, optimize resource allocation for the market, and bring good productions to more cities, thereby attracting more youths to fall in love with theater."

Since its establishment in 2008, Magnificent Culture has produced more than 50 theater productions. Damai is a ticketing platform with a top monthly active user record of over 30 million people, as cited by market consultancy QuestMobile, and its theater brand Mailive has been engaging in productions through investment, planning and publicizing.

"We will embark on a comprehensive collaboration. Starting with Crocodile, our future works will be subject to investment and review by Damai," Wang says. "The success of theater productions depends on many factors. Beginning with co-creation, Damai and Magnificent Culture will explore the preferences of today's theatergoers, integrating the sentiments that belong to the theater, the people and the era, with the technical and spatial aspects of the productions."

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