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Mo Yan's Our Jing Ke: Downfall by design

By Lu Qianwen (Global Times)

15:06, February 20, 2013

Mo Yan's Our Jing Ke is performed at the BPAT in December, 2012. (GT)

'Our Jing Ke' by Mo Yan depicts the self-sacrificing hero in everyone

Because it is part of nearly every student's assigned reading, the historic story Assassin Jing Ke is familiar to most Chinese from an early age.

Recorded in the Intrigues of the Warring States, a famous book on ancient history edited by Liu Xiang during the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-25AD), assassin Jing Ke became a household name in modern days for the character's chivalry and altruism.

As a historic classic, the story is also a favorite source for stage and screen works, most of which mainly follow the original book. However, the stage play Our Jing Ke, produced by Beijing People's Art Theatre (BPAT) and playing at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Beijing beginning on February 19, tries to present a different hero that is more relevant to modern people.

Mo Yan's stage version

One of few works for the stage by Nobel laureate Mo Yan, Our Jing Ke was first completed in 2003. After some revisions, the play premiered in August 2011 by BPAT. Last year, it won Best Play Award and the Outstanding Script Award of the Golden Lion, the highest award for Chinese dramas.

In its 3rd round of performances (after a 2nd round that was carried out last December), the play is still produced by the same team with veteran director Ren Ming at the helm, leading actor Wang Ban in the title role and actress Song Yi playing Yan Ji, the only female character in the play.

"Maintaining the modern style of stage setting and background music, we didn't have many changes for this round of performances except some actors. Also with increasing experience in practicing and performing the play, we have deeper understandings about the lines and characters in it," said Ren.

"From a pioneering perspective, Mo Yan has depicted a Jing Ke with multiple interpretations as well as his chivalry. This is much different from traditional dramas since most of them are simple and flat with one line delivering just one meaning," said Ren.

"But this one is different: while challenging our understanding each time we rehearse, it also leaves much room for audiences to interpret it," Ren told the Global Times.

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