Veteran actors mount Gogol's classic play

2010-04-16 08:40 BJT


China's "emperor of drama" Jiao Huang led a cast of veteran stage players in a thrilling performance for Beijing theatre lovers. Their adaptation of Nikolai Gogol's classic play "The Inspector General" premiered at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing on Wednesday night.

It's a reunion after five decades for the class of '59 graduates from the Performance Department of Shanghai Theatre Academy.

Jiao Huang led a cast of veteran stage players in a thrilling performance, Nikolai Gogol's classic play "The Inspector General". 
Jiao Huang led a cast of veteran stage players in a thrilling performance, 
Nikolai Gogol's classic play "The Inspector General".

The actors, now all in their seventies, made up the "legendary" group of supreme artistic level in the history of the Shanghai Theatre Academy.

Fifty years ago, they spent more than two years to prepare, from segment practice at sophomore year to episode rehearsal in their junior year. But the play was not able to be presented on stage due to all sorts of reasons.

Chen Mingzheng, who was their teaching assistant at the time, held the director's chair for the reunion. He says that after 50 years, this is a historic moment.

Chen Mingzheng said, "On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Gogol's birth last year, the creative passion that had always burned in these artists was let out. We decided to finish the uncompleted work that we tried 50 years ago to present the "Inspector General" on stage."

74-year-old Jiao Huang played the lead role, a foppish civil servant who was mistaken as the incognito government inspector by a bunch of corrupt officials of a small Russian town.

Jiao says that playing the role has made him younger.

Jiao Huang said, "I would say that we achieved a miracle in the history of Chinese drama with a cast of average age 70. I really feel proud that I can play this role because few people of my age dare to challenge this demanding role."

The satirical play by the Russian playwright and novelist Nikolai Gogol was published in 1836 and revised for the 1842 edition. It's a comedy of errors, portraying human greed, stupidity, and the deep corruption of powers in Tsarist Russia.

According to art critic Sun Huizhu, the staging of this play is ground-breaking in the history of Chinese drama.

Sun Huizhu said, "This play is quite sensitive for its penetrating sarcasm on government officials. No major troupes in modern China have staged this play. Now we boldly did it and no one until now has come out to interfere with our work. I think it shows big progress."

"The Inspector General" debuted in Shanghai last November. It will run for five nights at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing until Monday.