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December 11, 2011

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Lu Xun's characters come to life on stage

THERE are no props in "Lu Xun Blossoms" - the tables, door and rickshaw on stage are played by the six actors; even the coins and cords are represented by body movements in a physical theater involving Lu Xun's famous stories.

Performances by the Shanghai Drama Arts Center are staged at the center every Saturday through February 18. The first "Lu Xun" physical theater production was a Sino-Canadian collaboration.

The drama, with very little dialogue, is based on a number of short stories by Lu Xun (1881-1936), considered the father of modern Chinese literature. Famous works include "A Madman's Diary," "Kong Yiji," "Medicine," "Tomorrow," "An Incident" and "The True Story of Ah Q."

"We mixed several of Lu Xun's famous works in this play, where you find characters in his novels like Kong Yiji," says director He Ju.

The play is like a journey back to Lu Xun's hometown in Zhejiang Province, and it includes childhood memories and stories of compassion, death and shame. There are numerous rapid transformations.

The audience will see the well-known destitute scholar Kong Yiji, who has never managed to pass the imperial examination. Though starving, an object of ridicule and sometimes beaten, Kong still wears his scholar's gown and remains aloof.

Another representative character is Xianglin Sao, a young widow in the short story "New Year's Sacrifice," who is forced to remarry, suffers horribly and meets a tragic end. She symbolized millions of poor women of that time.

The six actors in the performance play various roles, human, animal and even inanimate.

One actor assumes the role of a stone guardian lion in front of a large house, then swiftly transforms into a middle-aged woman.

"This vivid, fast-change performance is similar to that in traditional Chinese operas," the director says.

"We will also create the atmosphere of Chinese New Year's on stage, with very few props."

"Lu Xun Blossoms" premiered in 2007 and it was staged last month in the 2011 Asian Contemporary Theater Festival in Shanghai in a Sino-Canadian coproduction. Three Chinese and three Canadian actors performed.

Founded in 1995, the Shanghai Drama Arts Center has collected a group of professional playwrights, directors, actors and stage designers working in three professional theaters.

The group performs around 1,000 original and other works every year, attracting more than 1,000 theater goers.

The current production runs one and a half hours without intermission.

"We merge physical theater into the show and the dialogue is just a very small part," the director says.

Date: through February 18, every Saturday, 2pm

Venue: Arts Theater of Shanghai Drama Arts Center, 288 Anfu Rd

Tickets: 80 yuan (US$13)


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