Official Chinese attitudes towards Western theatre continue to soften. Earlier this month, the China Young?
Official Chinese attitudes towards Western theatre continue to soften. Earlier this month, the China Young Artists Troupe staged the first foreign play in Peking for fourteen years. It was "The Life of Galileo" by the late German playwright, Berthold Brecht.
SYNOPSIS: When the Gang of Four, led by Chairman Mao Tse Tung's wife, Chiang Ching, came to power in China, western culture was banned. Since their fall, there have been occasional productions of foreign works. Galileo is credited with inventing the telescope, and the play concentrates on his scientific theories, and his inventions, and the trouble they caused for him with the Roman Catholic Church.
The directors, Huang Zuolin and Chen Yong, chose this play to spur an interest in foreign drama by Chinese audience. For Mr. Huang, Brecht was not a new experience -- he had directed the playwright's "Mother Courage and her Children" in the 1950s.
Chinese actor, Du Peng, portrayed Galileo. This production, mounted in authentic costumes of Galileo's time, was a notable departure for the Chinese theatre, which usually transfers imported drama into Chinese dress and settings. The play presents Galileo's theory of the solar system, which supported the heretical idea that the Earth and other planets revolved around the sun.
By basing his ideas on scientific arguments, Galileo ran afoul of church leaders who dominated European society at that time.
Music has always featured strongly in Chinese drama, whose most important form is opera. Since the Communists took control of China in 1949, actors have toured, singing operas with modern themes. During the past generation, Chinese audiences have lost touch with Western-style theatre in which dialogue is spoken...rather than sung. But Peking audience responded enthusiastically to "Galileo".