Chinese Plays are making a debut

29 March 2016

For the first time, the Palaver Festival featured two Chinese plays.

The Palaver Festival, taking place annually at Contact Theatre, offers fabulous opportunities for students to explore links between language and performance across a range of genres.

Chinese Wedding is an experiential play directed by Ziwen Wang, who uses the wedding to illustrate the Chinese tradition of marriage and wedding rituals and at the same time showcase the Chinese culture through zither, dance and songs.

Bus Stop is written by a well-known Chinese playwright Gao Xinjian and performed and directed by the Chinese Studies students. The directors of Bus Stop, Lauren Evans and Allison Needles have talked to us about their experience:

Q: Why did you choose Bus Stop for this year's Palaver Festival? And how challenging is it to perform in Chinese?

We chose Bus Stop as it is a modern play which we thought would make it more accessible for a modern day audience to understand as the characters themselves are universally recognisable. It does however also include a lot of references to the Cultural Revolution and I feel provides the audience with a modern day context of China.

Performing in Chinese is very difficult! The most challenging aspect is probably memorising the text as even in your first language, this can be challenging, but is infinitely harder in a second language as paraphrasing will almost certainly not go right! It can also be difficult to get intonation and successfully portray the movements and characteristics of a Chinese person, however I believe our cast did a great job at bringing these characters to life in a realistic manner. However, the whole process is highly rewarding and is a really great way for people to not only improve their language skills, but also their cultural knowledge of China!

Q: Do you think that plays/drama is an accessible means to promote Chinese culture and if so, how could the Confucius Institute enable this?

I think that plays and dramas are one of the best ways to promote and create access to Chinese culture. Plays utilise universal themes of love, dreams and loss - something that everyone can understand. This provides a great base for people to engage immediately with play, before introducing themes that are more specific to Chinese culture, and the story would provide a greater insight into the lives of Chinese people. I believe that this is one of the best ways to get an idea of what Chinese culture is like, other than going to China yourself! I really hope that the Chinese play will become a long standing tradition within the Chinese department at the University of Manchester and look forward to seeing what next year’s production will be!

I believe that the Confucius Institute can enable this quite easily by encouraging student productions, such as this year’s, to participate in the Palaver Festival. Providing support to the student groups looking to perform in Chinese is the best way to help, as it will provide the students with the means to make their dreams a reality. This year’s play would not have been possible without the help and support from the Confucius Institute, and for that we are very grateful! Aside from this, just promoting the play through their own channels to ensure that as many people as possible are able to see the play!

The Confucius institute will continue to support the Palaver Festival and help to make more plays on China accessible to our audiences. We are already in discussion with a production company to bring another Chinese play, From Shore to Shore / 飘洋过海, to Manchester in 2017 and commission a new play for the 2017 Palaver Festival.

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