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Blending mundane daily life with grand historical view

Author  :  Pei Yali     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2018-02-27

The stage play Ordinary World adapted from the novel of the same name by Chinese writer Lu Yao started its world tour in December 2017 to mark the 25th anniversary of Lu’s passing. The tour will include a total of 200 shows nationwide and worldwide. The adaption of the great Chinese realist literary work, which evokes the “sense of presence” of Lu’s work in readers and audiences, revives the artistic concept that writings should serve the people.

The play begins with dialogues between the characters Tian Fujun and Tian Xiaoxia about the value of their own images presumably placed in today’s new historical period, which endows the figures with renewed self-confidence of their existence by “traveling across space and time” and transcending the span of history. 

The play does not weaken the original motif of Lu Yao’s work, but more importantly, it responds to the issues that most concern Chinese people today and reasserts its understanding of and responsibility for such a motif in the form of artistic creation, which resonates with audiences.

The play also was a remarkable experiment in artistic form. Boldly adopting the grand narrative, which has been subtly controversial in the academia in recent years, the play informs the audience of the particular year in which each story of the novel took place as well as the international and domestic historical events that occurred that year. At the same time, throughout the whole performance, several innocent kids who wear masks and silently in the corner of the stage, observe the conversations and interactions between the adults as outsiders. They are not involved in the narrative but they display a variety of facial expressions as they observe the happiness and sadness, the hilarity and boredom that constitute the daily trifles in the adult world. This precisely captures Lu Yao’s view of history: While he affirmed the indispensable role of leaders and authorities at pivotal points in the course of history, he also regarded people as the fundamental drivers of the historical process. His view of history is concisely but potently crystallized and inherited in this stage play. 

The play also brings Lu Yao’s image—a statue of him—to the stage. The writer himself watches silently over the protagonists that he created, witnessing the weal and woe, the hustle and bustle that fill their “ordinary world.” This requires extraordinary courage for art from the adaptor since it is quite controversial to allow the author to stand out and “speak” either for the stage performance or the literary work. This act seems to have implied the over-interpretation of adaptor’s own creative intention. However, the play Ordinary World makes Lu Yao present on the stage not to interpret but to demonstrate, to display how the readers and adaptors today comprehend and salute him.

Moreover, from the perspective of the structure, the play is quite appealing in terms of its dramatic expressiveness. To love and be loved, to love and be faithful, to be loved and to be virtuous; the complementary pursuit of ideal, career, living and desire; the arduous integration between mundane inner warmth and conceited external beauty; the dual hope for the flourishing family and strong country—these relationships both outline the overall structure of the original novel and adapt to the demands of the stage performance in an effective way, which shows the adaptor’s remarkable ability to grasp the original work’s structure and the consummate skills to stir the dramatic appeal. 

 

This article was edited and translated from Guangming Daily. Pei Yali is a professor from the School of Chinese Language and Literature at Shaanxi Normal University.

Editor: Yu Hui

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