A modern literary classic gets a stage makeover, touching the heartstrings of a new generation and cementing Huang Bo's status as one of China's most solid thespians, writes Raymond Zhou in Beijing.
It is a bit early to proclaim the most powerful stage performance of the year, but Huang Bo in To Live is certainly a strong contender. During the first run of the play, from Sept 4 to 9 at the National Center of the Performing Arts, the comedian put himself squarely among the best of the country's dramatic actors, evident from the tears and cheers of the audience who greeted him. Yu Hua, whose novel of the same name served as the basis for the stage adaptation, was amazed at Huang's feat. Memorizing the enormous amount of lines alone must have been an arduous endeavor, he said. The three-hour play follows the original story very closely, another point for endorsement by the author. To Live chronicles the life of an ordinary farmer, Fugui, played by Huang Bo, who started as a good-for-nothing and ended up a symbol for the helplessness and suffering of a nation.
The protagonist epitomizes the resilience of the Chinese people and the survival instinct he displays in his tumultuous life. It is a testament to the national character we often take for granted.
The acclaimed novel was made into an equally acclaimed film in 1994 by China's top filmmaker Zhang Yimou. Though never formally released, it has been available through discs and online downloading.