New stage drama explores CPC’s revolutionary history in 1930s Shanghai
Published: Mar 24, 2024 10:48 PM
A production still of the drama 'A Panorama of Rivers and Mountains' Photo: Courtesy of the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre

A production still of the drama 'A Panorama of Rivers and Mountains' Photo: Courtesy of the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre

The stage drama A Panorama of Rivers and Mountains, adapted from the award-winning novel of the same title, premiered in Shanghai on Saturday, unveiling the revolutionary history of the Communist Party of China (CPC) dating back to 1933.
In January 1933, a secret meeting about to commence on Shanghai's Sima Road is abruptly interrupted by a gruesome event. A member of the then-underground CPC jumps to his death, followed by the deafening sound of gunfire as the venue is be-sieged by secret agents. As all the attendees were arrested, their covert operation, codenamed 'A Panorama of Rivers and Mountains,' was forced to a halted by the turmoil.
A masterpiece of renowned writer Sun Ganlu, winner of the Mao Dun Literature Award, the novel interfolds several topics such as revolution, dreams, espionage, and love, portraying a tumultuous 1930s Shanghai.
Set against the backdrop of the CPC's historic relocation from Shanghai to Ruijin, East China's Jiangxi Province, it paints a profound picture of CPC members while documenting the thrilling underground struggle at the time.

According to director Wang Xiaoying, the drama employs a narrative storytelling format that unfolds like a three-dimensional novel on stage. Actors read out loud the background of each chapter before they become the characters in the novel.
"The original novel is imbued with distinctiveness and sentimentality, so we needed to employ a similarly distinctive and sentimental approach to bring the story to the stage," Wang told the Global Times.
Unveiled at the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre (SDAC), the adaptation is helmed by nationally acclaimed playwright Zhao Lian and features a cast of 15 from the Shang-hai Dramatic Arts Center.
A total of 57 costumes were designed for the drama. The compact plot transition also required the actors to connect to different parts of the performance as quickly as they could.

At the same time, the stage design uses multimedia to create a blending atmosphere of reality and illusion. Set in the 1930s Shanghai, A Panorama of Rivers and Mountains weaves together fiction and reality, authentically recreating the city through land-marks. 
Audiences can immerse themselves in the city's distinct scenery, architectural details, historic costumes, and regional dialects. Retaining the literary essence of the original work, the drama vividly captures the romanticism of love between the main characters, underscored by Dmitri Shostakovich's Waltz No.2. 
In the last scene of the drama, all the actors read out loud the chapter An Unsigned Letter from the original novel against a starry sky, allowing history and modern times echo each other: "Sometimes, I seemed to see myself in the night. I saw that I was looking at you, anywhere in this world, always looking at you, looking at the happy and charming stars in the night sky."
The drama is set to run at the SDAC until April 14, offering audiences a chance to delve into this hidden yet remarkable chapter of history.