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A story that leaps from page to screen to stage

AFTER Wang Anyi's "A Song of Everlasting Sorrow" and Yu Hua's "Brothers," another piece of contemporary Chinese literature, "The Lives of Women" by writer Su Tong, has been adapted for the theater by the Shanghai Drama Arts Center. It premiered on Wednesday.

The play, featuring veteran Shanghai actress Song Yining and young actress Ding Meiting, tells of love and loss in an ordinary Shanghai family from the 1930s to the 1960s, although the original story went through to 1987. Song and Ding play two roles each as daughters and mothers of two generations.

According to director Liu Shuchen, a central attraction is the stories of the 1930s, showcasing the unique flavor and charm of old Shanghai. Many fine qipao have been designed and tailored especially for the play.

The first segment opens in Shanghai before World War II. Xian is an innocent young lady who dreams of becoming a movie star. One day, she meets "Boss" Meng from a movie company, who promises her a rosy, glittering career. She soon becomes Meng's lover. When her career is just about to blossom, however, Xian finds herself pregnant.

She refuses to have an abortion and moves back home to face condemnation from her mother and a series of bitter consequences.

In the second segment, Xian's daughter finds herself in a troubled relationship just as her mother was more than 20 years ago. Will she learn from her mother's lesson or will she repeat it?

The novel became "Jasmine Women," a 2004 award-winning film by Chinese director Hou Yong, starring Zhang Ziyi and Joan Chen.

Author Su became famous in 1991 when one of his novels was made into the Oscar-nominated feature film "Raise the Red Lantern" directed by Zhang Yimou. Since then, three more stories, including "Jasmine Women" and "Rice" have been made into films by director Huang Jianzhong.

This is, however, the first time Su's work has been turned into a play. "I look forward to going to the theater to watch the play," Su said in an early interview. "'The Lives of Women' is a story that suits the theater. It has many theatrical elements with its constant changes of scenes and individual segments.

"I'm very confident about the play," he said. "The movie proved to be a success. It is also good for theater companies to attract audiences by re-working well-known works of literature."

Date: through March 29 (no performances on Mondays), 7:30pm

Venue: Shanghai Drama Arts Theater, 288 Anfu Rd

Tickets: 100-120 yuan

Tel: 6473-0123


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