Skip to main content

Script drafted (February 2021)

In Chinese Opera or Xiqu, a typical play script is little more than a skeletal indicator, to give the actor the space to improvise and to create, to display his/her artistic maturity. Indeed, a famous story is that of male Shaoxin* singer Jin Zhitang who, when challenged to improvise a song about a tobacco holder, allegedly sang from early morning until lunchtime.

Actor’s Theatre, which has been the essence of Chinese traditional theatre was dismissed under China Modernisation movement at the turn of the 20th century as backwardness; instead western script based Director’s Theatre was adopted as the way of modernising Chinese theatre. Spoken Drama or Huaju emerged during that era has been hailed as the model of China modern theatre. In the years of Xiqu institutionalisation beginning in the 1950s, Director’s Theatre became the standard production of Xiqu Houses and has seen the demise of the Actor’s Theatre. A complete script was requested at an early stage by Shanghai Yue Opera House for performance, as well as for content inspection.

I know what story I want to tell – about three generations of women in China and their intertwined love and individual ambition against China socio-political-economic transformation from the early 20th century to date. Some say the structure sounds similar to Wild Swan, perhaps it does. I read Wild Swan when I first arrived in the UK in 1997 and it left a deep impression on me. But my story is about the all-female Yueju and the female textile workers, about the evolution of China’s first female working class in/tangible heritage in the digital era.

Earlier versions were created and shared by XU Wenyi at Shanghai Theatre Academy, WANG Rousang at the Shanghai Yue Opera House. Whilst a number of attempts were made within the team, thanks are warmly extended to Leeds-based scriptwriter Mary Cooper who developed the character biographies, timeline and proposed setting which focused the story and characters against the historical settings and allowed me to produce a working draft of the performance script which Shanghai Yue Opera House accepted.

A final version of the script in both English and Chinese was completed at the end of February 2021 and was confirmed by Shanghai Yue Opera House as the working copy.

Shaoxin is where Shanghai Yueju originated from, Shaoxinxi and Yueju are inter-used today.