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|Tuesday, July 03, 2001, updated at 08:42(GMT+8)|
Eliot's 'Mill' Successfully MovedThe Shanghai Centre Theatre was packed last Wednesday when the Shared Experience Company from Britain presented the Shanghai premiere of "Mill on the Floss," a play adapted from the George Eliot novel, according to China Daily on July 2.
The play focuses on the inner pilgrimage of Maggie Tulliver, a wild and clever countryside girl who yearns for a life of culture and education in the rural society of the 1830s. The role was played by three actresses who acted the central character at different stages of her life£º an untamable child £» an obedient young lady and a struggling woman in her 30s. Using Aristotle's "Find and Change" theory, the play's directors choose some important events in Maggie's life as key turning points. For example, her father's bankruptcy turns Maggie into a more mature lady. Her break-up from Phillip Wakem, her first lover, at the behest of her brother Tom, turns her into the "third" Maggie who regards love guiltily. "These three Maggies are also ego, id and superego whose instinctual needs and drives work on the woman together," commented Cao Ting, a graduate student at Shanghai Theatre Academy.
Every time when the third Maggie asks herself if she should accept the love of Stephen Guest, the other two give her opposite opinions in a strongly physical expression. "In this way, the inner feelings of Maggie is externalized," explained Polly Teale, one of the play's artistic directors.
Adapted from a novel, the play is also literal with the lines between roles as the main communication on stage. In addition, it is divided into well-organized episodes, which makes one feel that they are reading a novel.
"It is an excellent play," said Shi Jun, a teacher of directing with the Shanghai Theatre Academy. "It combines so perfectly realism and surrealism."
Actually it is also a play to test the skills of actors and actresses. Eight people have to play 17 roles in the play. "I have to change into Lucy Deane, a young and well-to-do girl with a happy personality from Mrs Tulliver, a poverty-struck woman in her 50s in 15 seconds, both physically and emotionally," explained Hilary Maclean. Michael Matus acts three totally different roles in the play£º Bob Jakin, an illiterate but strong worker £» Phillip Wakem, a crippled but multi-talented and intellectual man£» and Uncle Pullet, a man of few words who nevertheless has a great sense of humour. "With their acting, these excellent performers create vivid characters which arouse the love and hate of the audience," Xu Guochun, a director with the Shanghai Radio Station commented.
Most of the scenes of the play are both visual and literal. The last scene is a highly- charged physical performance£º When the Floss is flooded, Maggie and all the other characters are struggling in the water and drowned. During the struggle, each Maggie is linked with her idol at different stages. "Metaphorically it symbolizes that Maggie can only find her love and peace in death," said Cao Ting.
In addition, the final image of drowning echoes an earlier reference to witches when the first Maggie reads an article about witches £º "To know if a woman be a witch, throw her into a pond, and if she be a witch, she will swim." In all her life, Maggie is afraid of being a witch herself. She tries hard to conform to society and be like others, against her own nature. Proving ultimately that she is not a witch exerts the highest price - her life.
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