European productions headline Wuzhen Theatre Festival

By Sun Shuangjie in Shanghai Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/16 18:38:39

A scene from An Enemy of the People by Polish director Jan Klata Photos: Courtesy of the Wuzhen Theatre Festival

A scene from Caligula directed by Lithuanian director Vidas Bareikis

A scene from The Player directed by German director Frank Castorf

One of the fastest growing and esteemed theater festivals in China, the Wuzhen Theatre Festival will enter its fourth year from October 13 to 22, with 22 productions from around the world presenting roughly 80 performances at the historic scenic town of Wuzhen in East China's Zhejiang Province.

Following previous year's Robert Brustein, Eugenio Barba and Peter Brook, Chinese experimental theater pioneer Lin Zhaohua will be the honorary chairman of the festival this year. Lin will also debut his Dr. Godot or Six People Searching for the 18th Camel, an adaptation of a story from one of German author Dietrich Schwanitz's books. The play follows five mental patients who think they are the famous 20th century playwrights George Bernard Shaw, Luigi Pirandello, Bertolt Brecht, Eugene Lonesco and Samuel Beckett.

Meanwhile, theater troupes from Germany, France, Russia, Spain, Poland, Switzerland, Lithuania, Romania as well as the Netherlands will contribute almost half of the festival's performances, which will be divided into four sections: "New Contemporary Classics," "Commemoration of Shakespeare," "Body and Space" and "Discovery."

Classic works

Frank Castorf, artistic director and director in chief of the People's Theatre in Berlin since 1992, will bring The Player, an adaptation of the  Fyodor Dostoevsky novel from which the play gets its name. A trailblazer in multi-media theater, Castorf integrates multi-media displays, literature, stage design and performances in this 280-minute play, infusing the classic work with a distinctive contemporary ambience.

Polish director Jan Klata, a prolific producer of more than 30 shows that range from classics scripts to political theater pieces over the past decade or so, will put his all-out energy on display in Ibsen's classic play An Enemy of the People.

Vidas Bareikis, an emerging director from Lithuania, will present a contemporary interpretation of Albert Camus's Caligula, which will feature interactions with audience members on site.

Paying tribute to the great Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, who passed away 400 years ago, Spanish director Carles Alfaro turns Don Quixote into a puppet show, which condenses the essence of the novel into a 60-minute adventure on stage.

In the "Commemoration of Shakespeare" series, audiences will have the opportunity to see Hamlet co-presented by the Theatre Republique from Denmark and British cult band The Tiger Lillies, who have created 21 new compositions to propel the play's plot forward. Meanwhile, The Tempest from the Sibiu Gong Puppet Theatre will imbue the feelings and thoughts of the characters into fragile puppets, while using lighting and changing visuals to bring out the struggling soul of the characters.

Inspiring productions

"It is sure to be an inspiring experience to give Chinese audiences and theater insiders a chance to see some foreign plays," Lin said at a recent press conference for the festival.

Physical theater has always been a major feature of the Wuzhen Theatre Festival, and this year Mother Earth by Russian director Sergey Zemlyansky and These People by French director Françoise Glière will join the showcase. The former is a mime performance which conveys a mother's love and suffering, while the latter explores the way we interact with strangers and the way we look at other people.

Moreover, in the "Discovery" section, Swiss troupe First Cut Productions will present Legends & Rumors, which begins with a clever game in which three actors ponder upon the relation between the past and present. Meanwhile, the Kairos Company from France will honor the festival with The Thundering Glaciers, an inspiring show that reimagines a UN Climate Change Conference through a magical fusion of actors, musicians, acrobats and choreographers on stage.

Cultural exchange

Over the past decade, introducing foreign theater productions has become an increasing trend in China. A large amount of these productions have come from Europe, as Chinese theater industry insiders see it as a great opportunity to bridge the gap between China and the West.

In addition to the Wuzhen Theatre Festival, the sixth Lin Zhaohua Theatre Arts Festival earlier this year also invited five European productions to Tianjin in North China; the first showcase of plays from the Berlin Drama Festival was held in Shanghai and Beijing in June; during the Festival Croisements 2016, Chinese audiences saw a series of shows from the Avignon Festival; while the British Council has been bringing a number of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe to Chinese cities since 2012.

Good quality foreign productions have not only broadened the vision of Chinese theater talents, but also nourished a more open-minded audience in China, which is sure to help the industry mature.

The Wuzhen Theatre Festival is taking "Gaze Beyond" as its theme this year. Meng Jinghui, artistic director of the festival, said it's important to let the audience see "what is happening in the global theater scene" and let Chinese talents consider what can be learned to better facilitate the development of theater at home.

Newspaper headline: Western play craze

Posted in: Theater

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