Western theatre


Western theatre
Before the Cultural Revolution most of the Western plays performed in China were Russian. This tradition was interrupted by the Cultural Revolution, though afterwards the tradition resumed but with significant changes in the selection of plays and the way they were adapted for the Chinese stage. In the late twentieth century, with only a few exceptions—for example, the nostalgic and issue-based staging of Gogol’s The Inspector General in 2000—Chinese directors have generally preferred Euroamerican writers to Russian playwrights, and absurdist or abstract rather than realistic theatre.
The staging of Brecht’s The Life of Galileo constituted a highlight of the late 1970s. The director invited the audience to imagine that the scientist persecuted for pursuing truth was a metaphor for their own experiences under Mao. The director also modified Brecht’s ambivalent ending to underline the inevitable victory of truth and historical progress. An appreciation for Western culture and the desire to broaden the modes of theatrical expression determined the selection and staging of Western plays in the 1980s. For example, academics and artists jointly organized Shakespeare festivals (1986 and 1994) and an O’Neill festival (1988).
Interest also extended to Miller, Brecht, Beckett, Ionesco and Ibsen. Since the late 1980s, Western plays have become increasingly associated with the avant-garde. The repertoire has expanded to include Dürrenmatt, Fo, Pinter, Genet and Frisch to express a growing scepticism. Performances frequently mix Chinese operatic traditions and traditions related to modernist theatre in the West. An example is Three Sisters Waiting for Godot, combining Chekhov’s Three Sisters with Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, or Wild Man.
Chen, Xiaomei (1995). Occidentalism: A Theory of Counter-Discourse in Post-Mao China. New York: Oxford University Press.
Meng, Jinghui (2000). Xianfeng xiju dang’an [An Archive of Avant-garde Drama]. Beijing: Zuojia chubanshe.
HE DONGHUI

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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