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Whodunits and thrillers rule the stage

SEEING the growing popularity of whodunit plays, the Shanghai Modern People's Theater has launched a season dedicated to detective stories.

Through the end of the year, the theater will stage six plays, including three works by Agatha Christie, the Mandarin versions of British psychological thriller "Blood Money" and the Japanese classic thriller "Murder in the Snowland" and the debut of "Ghost Hostel," a representative work of renowned Chinese detective novelist Cai Jun.

According to theater director Zhang Yu, nearly one third of the plays staged in Shanghai these days are detective plays. In the past three years, the theater company has performed 16 whodunits and thrillers to full houses.

Earlier this year, it worked with the local Xinguang Art Center, which dates back to the 1920s, and repackaged it into a theater dedicated to detective plays.

"There is still huge potential (for whodunit plays in Shanghai)," Zhang says, adding that the theater company has signed young directors and fresh graduates from local performing schools.

"A Murder Is Announced," one of Agatha Christie's signature works and a crime novel classic, made its debut in the city last week. It is regarded as "the most feminine work" by the British "Queen of Crime."

It features detective Miss Jane Marple, one of Christie's most famous characters - an elderly spinster who is an amateur detective.

In the Mandarin version, the role of Miss Marple is performed by Huang Pei'er, a young lecturer from Shanghai Theater Academy.

"You won't be able to tell Huang's real age thanks to her excellent performance," says director Shen Xufei.

"The play, to me, is more a depiction of a woman's sad life experiences than a detective play," he continues. "The writer has precisely captured even the slightest psychological changes of each character."

After its highly successful premiere in the city last month, "Blood Money" is currently restaged in a second round. A philandering husband and an alcoholic wife are bound together by a dark secret - they killed a teenage girl in a hit-and-run car accident. Now it seems they've been found out.

A roller-coaster of a thriller, it keeps the audience guessing up to the shocking conclusion.

"A Murder Is Announced"

Date: through August 22 (closed on Monday and Tuesday), 7:30pm

Venue: Xinguang Art Center, 586 Ningbo Rd

Tickets: 120-280 yuan

Tel: 6422-0926

"Blood Money"

Date: through August 15 (closed on Monday), 7:30pm

Venue: Studio Theater of Shanghai Grand Theater, 300 People's Ave

Tickets: 120-150 yuan

Tel: 6217-2426


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