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Characters developed (May 2021)

Song of the Female Textile Workers is a one-actress with interactive digital performance. We are grateful for Rousang’s full commitment in developing the performance characters. Rousang is playing three characters as outlined in the script: Lu a gaming company executive based in the UK; Lu’s mother, a model textile worker under Mao’s era and Grandmam, a star Shanghai Yueju xiaosheng performer in early 20th Shanghai. Below is a recap of the story.

The main character Lu/露 is a gaming company executive based in the UK. Lu’s mother passed away in early 2021 but Lu was unable to attend the funeral due to Covid travel restrictions. In August 2021 Liu managed to travel back to Shanghai to scatter her mother’s ashes arranged by her uncle.

The story begins as Lu arrives at her mother’s Shanghai apartment late at night. The apartment overlooking the Huangpu River and the new Pudong development, including the Oriental Pearl Tower, where once occupies three textile factories.

Lu had a quick telephone exchange with her boyfriend in the UK informing his she has ‘just arrived’ when the conversation is interrupted by a call from her uncle reminding her tomorrow’s arrangement of scattering her mother’s ashes and informing her a box that her mother left for her in the apartment. Lu saw the box and left it unattended.

Lu turns on the TV which is showing Shanghai Yueju film The Love of the Butterfly. As the performance progresses, image of Lu’s grandmother appears, reflected in the apartment window. Grandmother, a Shanghai Yueju performer was a famous star Xiaosheng role in the 1940s Shanghai and continued to sing under the new China established in 1949. Grandma recounts the civil war, the liberation, the cultural revolution and her continued singing and yet diminishing audience. Lu seems to hear Grandma asking ‘You sang so well Lu, and yet, like your mother, you have stopped singing, why?’ then the sound of the character Zhu Yingtai from Love of the Butterfly film ‘I want you, on the day of the (Chinese) Valentine’s Day to come to my house.’ Grandma’s image disappears and Lu turns off the TV. She turns to the box mother left for her.

Lu’s mother had followed the path of undivided loyalty to the party, through fervent work in the Shanghai textile factories, winning ‘Red Flower’ awards for her labours, but losing the adoration of her daughter. Lu was brought up by Grandma who taught her singing Yueju and took her watching Yueju at her own troupe. Amongst the box of possessions Lu was surprise to discover letters from her mother to her, but never sent, which reveal the love that she had for her daughter, but had not been previously revealed. Filled with guilt and deeply buried love, Lu put on her mother’s Yueju costume, which was passed down from Grandma and sang Ten Miles Journey Home from Love of the Butterfly. From the singing and dance, Lu feels the full love and embrace of her Grandma and Mum.