Aug 7, 2009, Shanghai Daily
Ren aims to raise level of appreciation, review on Ren Ming Young's Theatre Production Le You Yuan
任明炀剧场作品《乐游原》演出评论


By Zhao Dan | 2009-8-7 | Shanghai Daily

PIECES of incomprehensible dialogue, vague relationships between roles, broken and seemingly illogical story lines - the play "Le You Yuan" provides a dreamlike environment for the audience and leaves enormous space for them to think and imagine.
The play will be staged tonight and tomorrow at the KeCenter.



"You can't label 'Le You Yuan' as an absurd play, though it is the most distinctive feature," says Ren Ming Young, founder of Linc2 Theatre Co and the play's artistic director. "You can also see the shadow of Chekhov, the influence from expressionism ... The play is a mix-up of various kinds of artistic elements."
Ren founded Linc2 Theatre Co in 2005. The Chinese name for the theater is Lingwu (literally, listening to the dance). It is an interesting coincidence that the Chinese name of the theater has the same pronunciation of "05" in Chinese, the year of its establishment.
"I like the character 'dance.' It represents the freestyle condition to me, and also means the stage. 'Listening to the dance' has a sense of surrealism," says Ren.
"Le You Yuan" is the fifth original play created by the troupe. Unexpectedly, it triggered fierce debate when it was first performed in April this year. "I was surprised at first to find the opinions going to two opposite extremes," says Ren.
People who love the play regard Ren as the Chinese Samuel Beckett, while those who are not able to understand the play accuse him of kidding the audience.
"Of course I'm serious and I devote my heart and soul to the play," says Ren. "Such reactions were normal.
"There are few plays of that style in China. People are not used to the style, and find it difficult to understand."
Ren and his plays are considered pioneering in China. "I would rather to be considered out-of-date," says Ren, "This kind of style was popular in the West from the 1960s. I regret finding the gap between Chinese audiences and Western people." Following the style of Western theater masters, Ren adds his own artistic and philosophical thinking.
"The style is not new, but the Chinese features of the play distinguish it from others of the same style," says Xu Xianming, the lead actor. "We hope to stimulate the spiritual vigor of modern young people in China in this fast-consuming society."
The play is named after an ancient plateau, Le You Yuan, in the northeast of Chang'an (today's Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province), capital of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), which used to be an ideal place to enjoy a bird's eye view of the city. The plateau, though frequently appearing in the ancient Chinese poems, is now a wasteland in Xi'an. The most well-known poem about Le You Yuan was written by Li Shangyin in the Tang Dynasty, with the two lines that all Chinese people are quite familiar with: "To see the sun, for all his glory, buried by the coming night."
"The play is to reflect the existence and mentality of modern people," says Ren, "It shares a similar temperament with the ancient plateau and the poem internally. They make you feel sentimental. The beautiful plateau does not exist any more, which represents the loss of the mental world of modern people. To some extent, it is also similar to the poem, 'The Waste Land' by T.S. Elliot."
The play was written early this year. After Ren finished writing the script, he found that he actually had been to Le You Yuan in 2008 when he visited Xi'an. However, he didn't realize that when he was there. "I feel it is destiny," says Ren.



"Destiny" is another important element the play wants to talk about. A key role in the play is Lai Ning, who was a real person who sacrificed his life in fighting a fire when he was 14 in 1988. For young people born in the 1980s, Lai was a teenage hero and idol in their textbooks, and an icon of the decade. However, the name has not been mentioned for a long time. In the play, Lai is revived, but he can't escape his destiny doomed to end his life in a fire.
The role recalls people's memories of their childhood. "People born in the 1980s watched the play and felt reminiscent and resonant," says Ren, who was born in 1982.
Almost all the members in the troupe were born in the 1980s. Though young, they have their dreams and ambitions.
"I bear the cultural responsibility of raising the public's appreciative ability and level," says Ren, "I hope to make my contribution to push the development of Chinese plays forward. It would be super if there were more and more people able to understand modern plays."
Cai Yiyun, operations director of Linc2 Theatre Co, feels the same. "The biggest pressure is from the audience. We would like to promote artistic communication and modern art without catering to the mass market."