Sense of romance

By Sun Shuangjie Source:Global Times Published: 2016-2-4 17:22:21

Three Storytellers revolts against four legendary relationships

Each time when the moon turns round in the middle of a Chinese lunar month, Chinese people will think of the tragic love story between Chang'e and Houyi.

Chang'e swallowed pills that made people immortal and became a goddess that forever lived alone on the moon, leaving her husband Houyi behind on the Earth.

However, Taiwanese playwright and director Huang Chih-kai would like to ask: we all know that Houyi was a hero who once saved humanity by shooting down nine extra suns that burned the Earth, so why didn't him just shoot down the moon to bring his lover back?

Huang is the artistic director of Taiwan-based theater group Story Works. In 2014 he created a play named Three Storytellers, in which he boldly challenged four ancient Chinese love stories through a funny but critical performance by three cross talk comedians.

The show begins with three storytellers who all call themselves Zhuge Liang accidentally bumping into each other at an event.

Zhuge Liang was actually a knowledgeable strategist during the Three Kingdoms period (220-280) and has been celebrated by Chinese for his wisdom.

To prove their own superiority over others, the three started to pick holes in the performances of others, which turns the show into a hilarious feast adorned with mime, ventriloquism and shadow play.

Besides the relationship between Chang'e and Houyi, Huang also discussed the stories of White Snake, a snake spirit who loved a human named Xu Xian but was cursed and punished by a monk; Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, two lovers sacrificed and who became a couple of butterflies after death; and Niulang and Zhinü, who are separated from each other and can only meet for one day each year.

From March 2 to 20, the play will be staged in Shanghai with a cast from the Chinese mainland.

The Global Times talked with the director Huang Chih-kai to share his thoughts behind the show.

(From above left) Actors Yang Feng, Shi Ce and Peng Ziheng in the play Three Storytellers Photos: Courtesy of SDAC

GT: What inspired you to write this play?

HCK: One of my female friends broke up with her boyfriend and then she came to me complaining that she always encountered irresponsible men.

Her love stories, for me, seemed like a circle in which she always makes the same kinds of mistakes.

There are many people who indulge themselves in sadness after a breakup and neglect the fact that they can learn and improve themselves.

So I hoped to make a play that can pose questions to classical love stories in a hilarious manner and let the audience see the improvement of those characters amid different relationships.

GT: How do you look at the four classical love stories?

HCK: I've always found there is a bug in these four love stories, so I try to rewrite them through a series of puzzles put forward by three storytellers in the play.

In the story of Chang'e and Houyi, I want to talk about the phenomenon that some lovers can pull through hardships together but fail to share a peaceful life.

Niulang in my eyes is a control freak. Is it fair for him to do everything to keep Zhinü around him only because he loves her?

In terms of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, I found that sometimes it is not love or fortune that matters in a relationship between a poor guy and a rich girl, it's possibly the dignity of the man.

And for Xu Xian and the White Snake, I want to make a hypothesis that they're not interrupted by others and they can live happily.

But as the White Snake remains beautiful and young while Xu grows older and older, will they live together forever?

GT: Did you name the storytellers after "Zhuge Liang" to provide strategies for people?

HCK: Because a storyteller should be knowledgeable, the three all named themselves after the great strategist who knew almost everything.

The three will present their own ideas about love on the stage, but for me, I make this play not to say that I know love better than others. It's out of my confusion about love that I want to discuss it with others in the play.

GT: You mentioned there were three versions of a love story: in fairy tale, classic works, and real life. What's the relationship between the three versions and the three storytellers?

HCK: I mixed the three versions of the love story together in the play. I think people are familiar with the "real life" version, so I won't elaborate on that.

The classic love stories are always those with a sad ending, such as Romeo and Juliet in the West, China's Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai or even the love stories by Eileen Chang.

But it's also very hard to become the protagonists in fairy tales. You have to be a princess first, so that you can no longer work and study and just wait for bad guys to take you away, and then wait for your prince to rescue you.

Moreover, you shouldn't be allergic to animals because you are very likely to be surrounded with these cute things.

No matter in which kind of love stories, people need to pay their price.

Date: March 2 to 20, 7:30 pm

Venue: Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre

Address: 288 Anfu Road 安福路288号

Tickets: 150 yuan ($22.80) to 200 yuan

Call 6473-0123 for details

Posted in: Metro Shanghai, Theater, Culture

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