A woman in every man

09:36, December 14, 2010      

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Director Meng Jinghui and playwright Liao Yimei are well placed to work together on plays about the relationships between men and women. They're not just dramatic partners, but also husband and wife. Their new drama Rouruan(Tenderness), themed around a transsexual relationship, is to be performed again from next Tuesday to Saturday in Beijing after its controversial debut on November 17.

Tendernesscontinues the core theme of the previous two successful works of Meng and Liao, Rhinoceros in Loveand Amber. All three plays focus on gender relationships, love, sex and marriage, but Tendernesstakes a much bolder perspective.

As Liao revealed to the Global Times after giving a speech at Peking University Sunday afternoon, Tendernessis a much bolder work for her. "Compared with my last two works, it features more taboo topics like transsexuals, homosexuality and transvestism."

The play tells the story of a beautiful female doctor and a handsome trans woman (a woman assigned as a man at birth) who wants to undergo a sex reassignment surgery. It focuses on their subtle and complicated relationships, as doctor and patient, as two understanding friends, and in the end as lovers eventually parted.

Talking dirty

The dispute as to whether one character should undergo the surgery dominates the stage, and as the plot develops, the audience abruptly faces some topics seldom discussed in local productions and in public, such as gender identity and the characters' sex lives.

The play was a box office hit, but also aroused discussions among the audience, with some praising its "boldness and creative dialogue," while others questioning its "long-winded lines" and some doubted "too much emphasis on sex and physiological issues." With its transsexual theme and outrageous lines, not every fan of their previous two works, which were more romantic and soft, has taken the change well.

"I am not interested in transsexuals, and have no intention of speaking for specific groups. I just want to write about the quest of identity everyone undergoes through a story of transsexuals," Liao clarified, "and if you can take it as a fable, instead of getting entangled with the plot and the bold lines, you may understand it better."

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