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Spotlight: Chinese stage performances shine at Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Last Updated: 2017-08-18 07:56 | Xinhua
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Among over 3,000 performances being staged on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe by more than 50,000 presenters from 62 countries and regions during three weeks in August, how can China highlights its art and cultural shows on this massive stage?


As a long-time active participator of this renowned international festival, China brings over 20 stage performances to Edinburgh this year.

China Goes Pop! is one of the most welcomed. As a co-production by China Arts and Entertainment Group and the U.S. producer Broadway Asia International, it combines staggering traditional Chinese acrobatic feats with a cheery Western aesthetic, blaring pop music and pop art-bright visuals, plus a cutesy love story.

This eye-popping show tells the story in Broadway-style and the world-class cast includes the acrobatic troupe from Shandong province, some of whom are Cirque du Soleil alumni.

With extraordinary costumes by a Tony Award-winning costume designer and imaginative video projections, China Goes Pop! creates a joyful and theatrical carnival that audience can easily understand and enjoy regardless of their ages nor languages.

Elisa Dew, a 15-year girl came to the producer after watching the one-hour show at Assembly Hall, one of the biggest venues of the entire festival.

"My grandma wants me to tell you that this is the best show she has ever seen. It's also my favourite one on the Fringe," she said.

Andrzej Lukowski, a drama critic, wrote in London TimeOut: "An extravaganza -- there's really no other word for it."

Since its premiere, the show sold out every day and the producers and performers have accepted a number of British media interviews.


If we say the popularity of Chinese acrobatic performance may still partly due to the fact that it has no language barriers, then the success of a modern Chinese drama, The Dreamer, undoubtedly reflects the advantage of Eastern and Western cultural communication.

Inspired by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Peony Pavilion by his Chinese contemporary, Tang Xianzu, The Dreamer is an international collaboration between Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre and the British theatrical company Gecko.

This vibrant production uses Gecko's trademark style to blend emotionally driven movement, a spine-tingling soundscape and striking visual storytelling to bring a new twist to these classic texts, performed by a Chinese cast.

Helena, the heroine, becomes an unhappy, unassertive and romantically unattached drone toiling at a corporate office, pining for her indifferent boss Demetrius but completely overshadowed by the glamorous and popular Hermia. The scenario taps into a modern-day Chinese social context in which pressure is still often applied to unmarried young women.

Tang Xianzu's tale, less familiar to Western audiences, is more lightly referenced as a book Helena is reading of which the audience see fragments as shadow play.

Executive producer Tang Shi told Xinhua that the play's preparation started two years ago, when "we saw the Gecko troupe's performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival a few years ago and decided to invite them to Shanghai for cooperation."

Although the actors speaks Chinese, the story was told in a Western way, which makes it understandable for foreign audiences.

"I fully get the story from China," said Amalia Bennett, an audience from Greece. "I do not understand Mandarin, but I fully understand the expression, gesture and emotion of the characters. It is a story about love, jealousy and freedom."

This Chinese contemporary play attracts both large audience and reviewers' praise, as the British Theater Guide, Broadway Baby and other professional drama critics gave it a full five stars, while the picky The Times also gave 4 stars.


China Goes Pop! and The Dreamer, together with other five performances, including The Luocha Land, New City New Sound, Treasure trove of Shadow, The Boor and Macbeth: Fringe of Cantonese Opera, are the seven selected outstanding shows presented under the framework of China Focus.

Chinese performers have been participating the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for years to bring Chinese culture to the famous western style festival of arts that dates back to 1947. This is the first time that China has tried to promote Chinese culture and performances in an integrated way.

China Focus, a collective program supported by China's Ministry of Culture and Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture, Radio, Film and TV, is expected to act as a better platform for Chinese art and culture display. From this year on, this event will be launched annually during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, selecting high-level programs to enhance the influence of Chinese arts in the festival.

Xiang Xiaowei, Counsellor for Culture from the Chinese Embassy in the UK, told Xinhua the China Focus was aimed to highlight three major areas: the well-received Chinese traditional arts, contemporary innovative arts, as well as new plays.

"The collective platform will help to bring breakthrough in terms of taking Chinese performance arts to the international festivals and the world stages," said the counsellor.

Shona McCarthy, chief executive officer of Fringe, said China is the first country that has established official long-term partnership with Fringe.

"With the theme China Focus, we hope the two sides can have more cultural exchanges in the future," she said.

This year the Edinburgh Festival Fringe marks its 70th anniversary. It runs from Aug. 4 to Aug. 28, welcoming over 200 million audience from 84 nations to enjoy a diverse mix of music, dance, theatre and opera.

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