Upcoming drama takes a trip to search family bonds and roots
Cross-Straits play to unveil story about nostalgia, homesickness
Published: Mar 13, 2023 10:27 PM
Photo: Courtesy of the National Theatre Company of China

Photo: Courtesy of The Homecoming

It is a story about being far away from home for decades, then one day returning to reunite with family members and dealing with deep-rooted memories, nostalgia and homesickness.

The new drama The Homecoming, which is set to be staged by the National Theatre Company of China in Beijing from March 23 to 26, tells a story that spans 70 years and the Taiwan Straits, which connect the ­Chinese mainland and the island of ­Taiwan. 

"Reunion is the warmest part of Chinese people's blood, and harmony is the most beautiful component of our traditional ethics. The upcoming stage work helps us depict an aspect of history, spanning 70 years and four generations," the show's scriptwriter Gong Yingtian told the Global Times on Monday. 

In October 1987, Taiwan announced to lift a 38-year-old ban and allow its residents to visit relatives in the mainland. Now, more than 35 years passed and the "three direct links," referring to direct mail, transport and trade links across the Taiwan Straits, have become a reality. 

"But we should not forget those heart-piercing days before this. Keeping the past in mind allows us to avoid repeating the same old mistakes," Gong said.

The story began in 1987 as a wave of exchanges and communication kicked off after years of isolation that started when the Kuomintang retreated to the island of Taiwan in 1949. Veterans returned home to visit their relatives one after another, but Li Jinbiao, who grew up in Beijing's hutongs, or traditional alleys, in his youth, didn't head back right away. It wasn't until the end of the summer of 1992 that he suddenly returned to Beijing with his son, daughter-in-law and eldest grandson. 

Having worked on the project for nearly two years, the cross-Straits cast and crew also include director Li Zongxi, actor Benjamin Lee from Taiwan and mainland actors Zeng Li, Wang Yi and Tang Lihua. 

"The story spans 70 years of family, friendship and love between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits and various emotional changes as well. We choose dual rotating stages to outline different scenes as all actors have to play the roles from young to old," said Li. "Another very interesting part of this play is how it uses the exchange of letters to connect the story."

According to the director, Taiwan beef noodles did not become known to the world until Kuomintang veterans from ­Sichuan Province retreated to the island in 1949 and created the dish to recreate the flavors of their hometowns and relieve their homesickness. With the "three direct links," Taiwan beef noodles traveled back to the mainland. 

"Just like this small bowl of beef noodles, we are talking about the search for the roots where we came from," the director added. 

Lee was born in a Peking Opera family in Taiwan. His father, born in Beijing, was Peking Opera actor Li Huanchun. Lee, who settled down in the mainland, said that his roots are in Beijing and that he is the best person to star in the drama as he deeply understands the feeling of "searching for one's roots and reunions."

"It is challenging as the role's inner world plays a big part and this needs to be performed with heart. The storyline of longing for home and a mother deeply moved me. A good script must first move the actors before they can convince the audiences," said Lee, who is also known for his popular roles in a number of Taiwan TV series.