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'Lunatics' - a primal staging of boy-meets-girl

FOR those who are tired of romantic comedies, "Lunatics" is an Adam and Eve love-hate story performed by a young alternative theater group this weekend. Yao Minji applauds. Yao Minji

Chinese alternative drama and small theater groups are at their best in summer. These nonprofessionals are mostly drama and arts graduates or students still in theater academies throughout China.

They are passionate about theater, not the standard easy-going fare that's popular on the commercial stage. They get together and rehearse as hard and diligently as professionals, if not more so.

These young drama lovers, however, often have no regular income and no stable income from their performances.

Many of these groups come and go as not everyone can persist in the pursuit of art as they get older and face more obligations.

But these groups are always emerging and are particularly active during summer, when student actors can enjoy their long holidays.

Some of them adapt and perform classical dramas and standards, Chinese and Western, seeking to find their own styles. Others are more daring and create their own performances based on how they feel about society.

Shanghai Daily has picked an interesting one titled "Lunatics," staged in Mecoon, an alternative drama space well-known among pioneering drama fans. It's performed through Sunday by the Nantes Barrel Theater Group.

In the 80-minute play, there are two protagonists in wartime, seeking refuge in a forest primeval. They enact the primary, primal relationship of all human beings - the relation between a man and woman from their first encounter to the end.

A man and woman, "everyman," pass through stages like suspicion, understanding, bonding, love and hatred.

It's not a sweet, garden-variety romance. There is no "romantic" scene. The ambience is tense and sometimes violent.

The metaphoric script is about humans responding to their inner selves, to each other and the outside environment under extreme circumstances.

The Nantes Barrel Theater Group is a collective that was formed in 2007. It's just one of many small theater groups struggling to survive with few resources and unstable income.

Most members of the company are drama students or workers in drama-related areas. They have squeezed time out from ordinary life since April to rehearse.

The scriptwriter is Chen Guofeng, a famous stage drama scholar and university professor, who goes by his pen name Mai Tian, something like "The Catcher in the Rye," regarded with nostalgia by many Chinese intellectuals.

Chen doesn't consider the play an absurdist drama although he admits there are surreal and absurdist elements.

The story is simple, almost a cliche. In a fictional world war, a man wearing the uniform of a general is shocked and terrified. He escapes to a forest and encounters a young woman.

Both have witnessed cruel killings during the war, and are afraid of trusting each other though they know they cannot survive alone in the forest.

They experience complicated feelings.

It would have been a real cliche if it ended happily ever after in a tranquil forest far away from war and conflict.

"Lunatics" doesn't end like this. The ending is surprising, yet realistic based on unfolding of human nature in the play.

Date: through July 12, 7:15pm

Venue: Mecoon, 3/F, Bldg 100, 200 Longcao Rd

Tickets: 35 yuan

Reservation: Mail name+number of people+dates to


New Releases from High Note Records

Artist: Jaytech

Title: Everything Is Ok

Genre: Techno/trance

At 22, Jaytech, aka James Cayzer, has carved himself an enviable reputation as a supremely credible producer, DJ and live talent "Everything is Ok" is his debut album.

Uplifting but never obvious, his music is well-thought out melodic house that's equally at home in a Sasha or Desyn Masiello set as in a headline slot from Above & Beyond.

Artist: Pit Baumgartner

Title: Tales of Trust

Genre: Jazz, lounge, pop

"Tables of Trust" is the solo album of DEPHAZZ producer and mastermind Pit Baumgartner, who influenced lounge pop music like almost no other producer, and adds another chapter to his "electronic organic music" biography. It ties in his legendary album "Detunized Gravity" and thus marks a new stroke of genius.

Artist: V.A

Title: In Fashion

Genre: Dance, down-tempo, pop, Nu-jazz

"In Fashion" contains two music styles to satisfy your appetite.

CD1 collects cuts of Nu-jazz/smooth house including tracks mixed by the Dining Room, the famous Down-Tempo group from Milan. CD2 combines electronic tunes out down-tempo/Nu-jazz/lounge beats.

High Note Records

Address: 455 Fahuazhen Rd

Tel: 5259-9922

Live Music

The Old Street

The veteran folk music band is on a national tour starting from Shanghai. It is set until September with more than 12 cities on schedule and more are coming up.

Date: July 17, 8:30pm

Venue: 021 Live House, 1436 Jungong Rd

Tickets: 30 yuan

Tel: 139-180-15880

Music, I Love You to Death

Six bands are rocking up the clothing shop eno. Some of them will come with their most recent creations.

Date: July 18, 6:30pm

Venue: eno, 139-23 Changle Rd


Cheerful Europe

The Cultural Division of Consulate General of Germany in Shanghai has organized a European film festival for the summer. Every Friday there will be one screening of a European movie. "Geboren in Absurdistan" ("Born in Absurdum" ) is a 1999 Austrian film scheduled for tonight. Next week is Slovenian film "Red Colored Grey Truck."

Date: July 10, 17, 7pm

Address: 102 A, 318 Fuzhou Rd

July Screening

The Memory in Shanghai is a new hot spot for film screenings and the July schedule includes "Confessions of a Shopaholic" and "Defiance."

Date: July 12, 19, 1:30pm

Address: 175 Jin'an Rd

Tel: 6320-1020


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