(Text by Reporter Li Ying) “Watching different works of Lao She to find yourself in the kaleidoscope of ideal families.” On April 8, Lao She: Go to a Fair, the modern drama rearranged from six short stories of Lao She, held the premiere press conference in Shanghai. Main staff including the director Fang Xu and main performers Liu Xinran, Su Xiaoding, Qin Feng, Ma Yusong and Jing Songtao all showed up in the press conference. As one of the invited dramas of Shanghai Jing’an Modern Drama Valley in 2018, the modern drama Lao She: Go to a Fair will have its premiere at Shanghai Art Theater from May 5th to May 6th.
Rearranged From Short Stories of Lao She with Strong Practical Significance
The famous drama director Fang Xu is praised as “specialist in Lao She’s works”. After This Life of Mine, Cat Land, The Divorce and Mr. Ma and Son, the drama Lao She: Go to a Fair is the fifth time that he has adapted and directed the works of Lao She, and is his first try of adapting short stories of Lao She into a drama. Modern drama Lao She: Go to a Fair invited Shu Yi and Shu Ji, son and daughter of Lao She, to be the literary consultants, and the famous performing actress Siqin Gaowa to be the artistic consultant. The script planner is Guan Jixin, and the playwrights are Fang Xu, Chen Qing and Guo Yiwen. Still, besides director and playwright, Fang Xu also performed as the main actor of the drama. This drama selected six of the essays and short stories of Lao She, and combined them together to give a show of “highlights from operas”. As for the title of the drama, the title of Lao She’s first short story anthology was used.
Fang Xu explained the original intention of using this name: “Our drama is rearranged from six short stories of Lao She, and this is the first time my team and I have taken a try of rearranging Lao She’s short stories into a drama. Thus, we named the drama after the first anthology of short stories of Lao She as Go to a Fair. The six short novels selected are 20 Notices for Modern Drama Audience, Disease of Creation, Sacrifice, Black Li & White Li, Neighbors and My Ideal Family. These characters and stories written by Lao She are set in 1930s, but still accord with today’s audiences. 20 Notices for Modern Drama Audience shows the audience the opera-watching rules in the Republic of China, letting them taste the humor and satire in Lao She’s work; Disease of Creation describes the poor life of a young couple living in the era 90 years ago, so that audience can compare them with the young people nowadays who are members of the “moonlight clan” (people who run out of their money every month); Sacrifice portrays how the returned overseas Doctors yearn for American spirits and make fake sacrifice for love; Black Li & White Li describes how the Li brothers fight against and then sacrifice for each other revolving round their love; Neighbors describes the comedic daily lives of Mr. Ming, Mr. Song and their wives living in the Republic of China; My Ideal Family invites the audiences to learn about the ideal life of Lao She.”
These works created by Lao She in 1930s are still of great practical significance in today’s life. Though every story is an independent work, the six short stories are similar in theme: how to deal with the relationship between self and reality, and how to face and pursue an ideal life? Putting these works on the stage after a time period of 90 years will not only help the re-observation of Chinese ideal life from a contemporary perspective, but also bring general life thinking to contemporary audiences in a humorous way.
All-Male Performers and Minimalist Stage Design
On the basis of respecting the original works, Lao She: Go to a Fair is a new explanation of Lao She’s works from the contemporary view. The modern drama made bold trials in music and visual designs such as stage design and costume design, aiming to build a new image of Lao She from the aspect of modern appreciation of the beauty, and create a minimalist but enriched and funny modern stage show.
In terms of the overall stage presentation, the modern drama Lao She: Go to a Fair uses four bamboo curtains as a clue to link up the whole drama. While the curtains open, close and turn, the stage space appears to be totally different in audiences’ eyes. Moreover, freehand caricature in the style of Republic of China is added to create an aesthetic effect of deep meaning in easy words. The costume of Lao She: Go to a Fair is designed by individual fashion designer Su Guangyu. He made full use of various uncommon experimental materials on these costumes with freehand features.
In the selection of actors, besides that Fang Xu still takes the leading role of his own drama, five other young actors Liu Xinran, Su Xiaoding, Qin Feng, Ma Yusong and Jing Songtao are invited to form an “All Men’s” lineup. “Female characters performed by men” was born from Chinese traditional operas. Continuing from Li Shutong’s The Lady of the Camellias until today, the modern drama Mr. Ma and Son demonstrated the charm of the “All Men’s” stage to the audiences. Particularly, the young actor Liu Xinran, who specializes in female character type and is praised as “the most beautiful and talented actor in female character type”, perfectly combines the patterns in traditional operas and the modern dramas. This time, the purpose of making a second try of launching an “All Men’s” lineup is to further explore the possibility of the poetic flavor and abstract expressions on stage.
Another spotlight in modern drama Lao She: Go to a Fair is the continuance of “All Men’s” lineup in the former modern drama Mr. Ma and Son. “The ‘All Men’s’ lineup is not a trick”, emphasized Fang Xu, “I first utilized such a way of presenting in Mr. Ma and Son, and this time I would like to have another try to find out new possibilities of this All Men’s’ lineup, so I continue to use it. And I found this attempt itself fairly meaningful. The performance by an ‘All Men’s’ lineup can enhance the feeling of ‘playing a role’ in the drama, and adds space for more check and examination between actors and characters, thus enriches the performance and adds joys into it.”