Performance in Alienated Voices:
Mode of Narrative in Gao Xingjian’s Theater

By Sy Ren Quah

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 14, no. 2, pp.51-98

This article focuses on the mode of narrative in Gao Xingjian’s playwriting, which has been greatly influenced by his knowledge in directing. A study of Gao’s post-China dramatic works such as The Nether City, Between Life and Death and The Nocturnal Wanderer, reveals that Gao’s employment of the narrator (a notion with origin in both Brechtian theatre and traditional Chinese theatre), the second- and third-person narratives are strategies to deal with contemporary issues such as subjectivity, alienation and human existence. In particular, Gao’s notion of the actor in a neutral state—a transitory stage in between his/her identities as performer and dramatic character—sufficiently informs his technique of swift changes between different narrative voices.