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To Live – modern Chinese performance art in Berlin

2014-06-27 10:51:52

(China Today)


A Long but Captivating Performance

Meng Jinghui, one of China’s most celebrated avant-garde theater directors.

The play lasted three hours without intermission. This imposed a real challenge to German audiences, who expect to refresh their minds and bodies during the intermission so they can enjoy the second part with renewed attention. However, this cherished habit was forgotten; there wasn’t even time to think about a break during the captivating performance. The play was intense from beginning to end.

Language barriers didn’t pose major problems, thanks to precise German subtitles projected at the side of the stage. The actors used language, high physical commitment and dance pantomime, accompanied by a sophisticated stage with multi-media installations, which helped convey meaning.

As an experienced dramatist Meng Jinghui knows how to keep audiences surprised, aroused and entertained. They can also expect amusing, odd elements on stage. From this perspective the performance was well worth the ticket price. Scenes like the appearance of the cultural revolutionary propaganda squad, which was exaggerated to the point of being grotesque, or the humorous dialogue with Fugui’s future son-in-law “Wryneck” were entertaining highlights.

Several scenes deeply moved the audience. The son’s death and Fugui’s shocking, devastated outburst marked an emotional climax to the play.

Huang Bo, who played the leading man Fugui, stood on stage for three long hours almost without break. During this time he deployed the whole arsenal of stagecraft. He mimed the young landlord obsessed with gambling as well as the completely destitute day laborer; he expressed grief, hope, joy, despair and resignation to fate.

Sometimes his character seemed like a wise guy or a merry prankster. Again and again Huang expressed his character’s indomitable will to live. Especially astonishing was the intensive physical commitment required, which Huang handled effortlessly.

But Huang’s brilliant performance also depended on the complimentary performance of actress Yuan Quan, playing Fugui’s wife. Yuan’s restrained and sensitive acting style complemented Huang’s powerful performance. In the end, all performers did impressive work and made the play a huge success.

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