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Plays light up the stage during festival
By Nie Xin

The 17th China Shanghai International Arts Festival will stage up to 20 original dramas from home and abroad this year.

The lineup includes British director Peter Brook’s “The Valley of Astonishment” and Shakespeare’s “The Twelfth Night,” presented by an Indian troupe in Bollywood style. Also be on the lookout for the original Chinese play, “The Sword of Kingdoms of Wu and Yue,” produced by Beijing People’s Art Theater, and the “War Horse” by the National Theater of China.

“The Valley of Astonishment,” a new work directed by Brook and his long-time collaborator Marie-Helene Estienne, is a kaleidoscopic journey into the wonders of the human brain.

Inspired by years of neurological research, true stories and Farid Attar’s epic mystical poem “The Conference of the Birds,” the story explores the experiences of real people who see the world where every sound has a color, where every color has a taste, and where the number eight is a fat lady in a radically different light.


“We will explore the mountains and the valleys of the brain; as we go forward with our feet firmly on the ground, each step will take us further into the unknown,” says the director.

Born in London in 1925, Brook has worked in various genres — from theater and opera to cinema and writing.

The upcoming play is the director’s second exploring the brain after “The Man Who.”

“We will take the spectator into new and unknown territories through people whose secret lives are so intense, so drenched in music, color, taste, images and memories that they can pass any instant from paradise to hell and back again,” he adds.

Beijing People’s Art Theater is well known in China for its productions of Lao She’s “Tea House” and Cao Yu’s “Thunderstorm.”

“The Golden Cangue”

This year the theater will bring another heavy-weight work from Beijing, “The Sword of Kingdoms of Wu and Yue.” The story is set during the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods (770-221 BC).

The play debuted in 1983 to critical acclaim. It was written by poet Bai Hua and directed by Lan Tianye.

Fans of Eileen Chang (1920-1995) will possibly be thrilled to know this legendary Chinese female author’s renowned novel “The Golden Cangue,” written in 1950, will be adapted for the stage at the arts festival.

The work will star Hong Kong actress Perry Chui and is directed by Hong Kong director Ann Hui. The stage adaptation has been written by Shanghai native author Wang Anyi.

National Theater of China will stage two plays. The first is a Chinese version of “War Horse.” It is based on Michael Morpurgo’s novel of the same name that was written for children in 1982. The other is the original drama “Chinese Soldiers,” produced to celebrate the 70th anniversary of victory in the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.


The drama “Ancestral Secret Recipe” is a Liaoning People’s Art Theater production and also celebrates the war anniversary.

Set in Shenyang Province in 1933, it is the story of a traditional Chinese medicine doctor who inherits a secret recipe created by his ancestors. The doctor tries to prevent the recipe from being discovered by Japanese invaders during the war.

“Ancestral Secret Recipe” is also included in the Shanghai International Arts Festival’s Rising Artists’ Works (RAW) project, a platform that commissions young, emerging artists from across China. These original productions have a chance to be recommended to other international festivals.

More information, including the schedule of performances, is available at www.artsbird.com.

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