Meng Jinghui’s production of “Teahouse” 茶馆 was featured at the Avignon Festival July 9-20, 2019. It was the first time in its 73-year history that a show from China was included in the Avignon “IN” festival (the main festival). Meng previously brought several productions to the “OFF” festival beginning in 2010. “Teahouse” first premiered in an earlier form at the Wuzhen Festival in China in October and was performed in Nanjing in June. I translated the play from Chinese to English and worked with the production team at the Avignon festival in July (surtitles in both French and English were available to audiences at Avignon).
This article is a brief overview with images and includes a quote from festival director Oliver Py, and also a video link in the first image that shows moments from the performance:
This article discusses the “buzz” and controversy the show created at the festival—it was held in the festival’s largest venue and some audience members walked out while others stayed through a dozen curtain calls and kept clapping and shouting until the cast came out from backstage. The show is more than three hours long and done in a contemporary German style (influenced by dramaturg Sebastian Kaiser) that combines expressionism with a lot of screaming and simulated violence. The production also features Meng’s trademark influences from Meyherhold’s biomechanics, Brecht, Dadaism, etc, and his dystopian milieu. It is the most intertextual yet of Meng’s many intertextual plays—it integrates text from Lao She’s 1953 original play with texts from Dostoyevsky, Brecht, Sartre, and others. The set by his longtime collaborator Zhang Wu was an enormous steel construction with a vertical rotating sphere in the center: it is composed of 6 tons of material, 1,000 pieces to assemble, requires 8 electrical machines to rotate the sphere, and 45 technicians (25 from France and 20 that traveled with the 20-member cast from China)—the materials were transported by sea and took 45 days.
Next, “Teahouse” will travel to Moscow, and it is scheduled for the Poly Theater in Beijing in November, which will be particularly interesting due to the sensitive political content in the play.
Here are some good press articles in French about the Avignon production:
If anyone would like further information, they can feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Claire Conceison 康开丽
Quanta Professor of Chinese Culture
Professor of Theater Arts
I Love XXX and Other Plays by Meng Jinghui http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/distributed/I/bo25016437.html