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Camus' 'Caligula' to French office farce

FRENCH author and existentialist philosopher Albert Camus (1913-60) is best known in China for his novel "The Plague," but his first drama "Caligula" about the Roman tyrant and madman will make its China debut tonight.

"Caligula" (published in 1944) will be performed in German, with Chinese subtitles, by the Thalia Theater from Hamburg, at the Shanghai Drama Arts Theater.

Caligula was the fourth Roman emperor, ruling briefly from AD 37 to AD 41, and notorious for his cruelty and excess. He was known as "the evil emperor who proclaimed himself god and was assassinated by his guards."

In 1979, the rise and fall of Caligula was featured in a controversial film of the same name. In 2007, the Camus play was staged in Japan starring famous actor Shun Oguri.

"This is the first time the classic has been staged in China," says Huang Yiping, project organizer at Shanghai Drama Arts Center. "The audience will be led to the inner world of a tyrant, and understand why Caligula made all those cruel, dark decisions."

Camus wrote his first drama "Caligula" at the age of 25, about the same age as his main character. He referred to the piece as a "tragedy of realization," and denied all political interpretations.

"Caligula fights against everyone and everything, but the true enemy lies within himself," Huang says. "Eventually he consents to his own death to escape the absurdity of life. One cannot destroy everything without destroying himself."

The Thalia Theater has also brought to Shanghai this time young theater workers from Hamburg, who will create a play together with actors from Shanghai Drama Arts Center during their stay in the city.

Meanwhile, renowned French theater director Denis Guenoun has brought to Shanghai one of his latest comedies, "L'Augmentation," ("The Raise") to be staged during Festival Croisements, an annual culture exchange between China and France.

Written by French novelist George Perec (1936-82), "L'Augmentation" is a comedy about six office workers who try to get a pay raise from the boss. It showcases hilarious ways used by the staff to approach the boss.

"White-collar plays have been very popular with young audiences in Shanghai all these years," says Zhang Yu, producer of the Mandarin version of the play.

"'L'Augumentation' gives the audience an opportunity to see what a French white-collar play is like. It contains lots of typical, witty French humor as well."

According to him, the Mandarin version will also feature some typical "Chinese" ways of asking for a pay raise from the boss.

The play will be performed in Mandarin with French subtitles.


Date: Today-June 13, 7:30pm

Venue: Shanghai Drama Arts Theater, 288 Anfu Rd

Tickets: 120-200 yuan

Tel: 6473-0123, 6433-4546


Date: June 18-20, 25-26, 7:30pm

Venue: Xinguang Theater, 586 Ningbo Rd

Tickets: 120-150 yuan

Tel: 6422-0926


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