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May 6, 2011

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Crosstalk goes hip-hop and trendy for young listeners

THIS is not your father's, and certainly not your grandfather's kind of crosstalk with two comedians in gray robes sparring back and forth.

It's hip-hop crosstalk that retains the core of traditional back-and-forth crosstalk, but it's lively, colorful and addresses hot-button issues like high housing prices and topics in the news, like the British royal wedding and even the death of Osama bin Laden. There's also music, dance, farce and mime.

There are shows tonight and tomorrow at the Lyceum Theater by the Beijing-based Xiha Crosstalk troupe, literally "hip-hop crosstalk society."

Crosstalk is a traditional form of entertainment popular in northern China, but it has been fading for years as younger audiences are drawn to flashier entertainment.

Xiha Crosstalk established in 2008 has around 70 performers, mostly in their 20s and half of them professionals. Their shows have become a hot ticket in Beijing for young people.

Unlike the Deyun Crosstalk Association set up by famous crosstalker Guo Degang to appeal to the older generation, Xiha Crosstalk targets a younger crowd born in the 1970s, 80s, even 1990s. It has around 260,000 registered fans just in Beijing.

According to Gao Xiaopan, a 26-year-old crosstalker and founder of Xiha Crosstalk, the traditional crosstalk-only format has been updated and enlivened for younger spectators.

Most shows are inspired by news events, the latest gossip and what's buzzing on the Internet.

It's fast-moving, like traditional crosstalk, but performers wear colorful costumes and there's farce, mime, dance and music.

"To make crosstalk more accessible to the Shanghai audience, we will add topical shows, regional opera and learn Shanghai dialect," says Gao.

The recent news of the killing of Osama bin Laden and the marriage of Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton are among the topics of the Shanghai stop.

This is the second Shanghai show this year for Gao and his team. The first show was a big success and the audience was eager for more.

The group presents around 20 performances a week in Beijing and Gao says he aims for monthly shows in Shanghai.

"No matter what difficulties we encounter, we are determined to carry on and preserve this old folk entertainment."

Date: May 6-7, 7:30pm

Venue: Lyceum Theater, 57 Maoming Rd S.

Ticket: 80-280 yuan

Tel: 6256-5544, 4008-101-887


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