The Mad Phoenix flies

By Sun Shuangjie Source:Global Times Published: 2016-3-16 18:13:01

The 1990s classic Hong Kong play to make its Shanghai debut

For the first time, the critically acclaimed Hong Kong play The Mad Phoenix, whose film adaptations won several awards, will come to Shanghai as it embarks on its first tour of the Chinese mainland since its debut in 1993.

In the 1990s, the Cantonese-language play swept the theater scene with an intriguing story and an outstanding cast, including award-winning Hong Kong actor Tse Kwan-ho in the lead, who will reprise his role for three performances here in April.

After its original opening, The Mad Phoenix, written by Hong Kong film and TV screenwriter Clifton Ko and directed by Raymond To, reportedly drew more than 60,000 theatergoers over some 60 performances that decade.

The story revolves around the legendary life of Cantonese opera playwright "Mad Phoenix" Kiang Yu-kou, who was born to a rich family in Foshan, in Guangdong Province, and died suffering from mental illness in Hong Kong in 1984 at the age of 74.

In his lifetime, the playwright endured emotional and physical hardships ranging from conditions during World War II to unrequited love. These served as inspiration for his work, though he also penned many classic scripts for Cantonese opera.

Hong Kong actor Tse Kwan-ho in the lead of the award-winning play The Mad Phoenix Photo: CFP

Ko was meant to tour the play across Asia in 2013, but it only performed in Foshan, reportedly because of the extravagant production.

Besides a complex stage set, the cast is large, including, for instance, Kiang's father's 12 wives, each played by different actresses.

In Shanghai, the production will set up at the Majestic Theatre, which is scheduled to reopen next month. The performance will be in its original Cantonese, with Chinese subtitles.

"It's a rare opportunity for the mainland audience to watch this play. Ko said that it would be almost impossible to re-stage it here within 10 years," said Fang Jie, project manager of the Guangzhou Zuo'an Art company, which launched the tour.

The production will also travel to Beijing and Shenzhen.

According to Fang, the tour is made possible by a fund to re-stage the play in Singapore for an art festival this year. With the renewed production, Ko and Zuo'an Art set about once again to bring the show to Chinese mainland.

Still, Fang said, the production is expected to operate at a loss for the company.

But Fang said it's worthwhile because it's a dream coming true for the production team, and a rare opportunity for the mainland audience.

During his creative process, playwright To talked with members from Kiang's family for firsthand material, and the result lends a vintage feel through rhythmic dialogue.

Guangzhou-based screenwriter Rui Xiaoshuo once commented on the play: "It's a surprise to see that it used comic and bantering dialogue to depict a grand history of China behind a tragic story of a folk artist."

In 1997, Ko, To and Tse also made a film version that won the Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing at Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards, and Best Screenplay at the Hong Kong Film Awards.

The play's script was even included in high school textbooks in Singapore.

Date: 7:30 pm on April 22, 1:30 pm and 7:30 pm on April 23

Venue: Majestic Theatre 美琪大戏院

Address: 66 Jiangning Road


Tickets: 180 yuan ($27.65) to 880 yuan

Call 137-6175-4258 to book tickets

Posted in: Metro Shanghai, Theater, Culture

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