Mandarin play banned in China takes centre stage at Manchester Contact Theatre

A play – completely in Mandarin and banned in China – is set to hit the stage at Manchester’s Contact Theatre.

The revolutionary cult play, Bus Stop, revolves around eight Chinese characters all waiting for a bus that keeps driving past and will have English subtitles projected on the back wall behind it.

The characters represent eight different stereotypical ideas of Chinese people across a range of backgrounds and ages from an elderly man to a young student studying for his university exams.

Conversation develops as they all start to wonder why the bus won’t stop and by the end of the play, they have been waiting there for A LOT longer than expected.

The performance delves into the cultural revolution in China between the 60s and 70s using dark humour.

SYMBOLIC: The characters’ wait at the bus stop represents the Chinese farmers’ wait for Mao to revolutionise countryside living

Director Alison Needles, 21, told MM: “Chairman Mao had this 10-year program where he was going to get rid of all these old things – get rid of the rural, poor countryside lifestyle in China and make it great and prosperous.

“Although the play doesn’t directly say that it’s commenting on the communist party or what Mao did, the fact that they wait 10 years for the bus is symbolic of how a lot of the poor people in China and the people in the countryside were left waiting.

“They were ignored during this time, while the cities were getting more prosperous and people were moving there.

“People were struggling to find a life and find a reason for their lives. It is a dark humour reference to that period of history.”

Although the play may be widely known in other Asian countries such as Taiwan, it is completely unknown in China.

The writer, Gao Xinjing, was forced to flee his own country after his wife reported him to the Chinese authorities. After he fled to Germany, all his plays were banned.

Alison said: “The first time this play was ever put on was in Taiwan. If you ask anybody about him in China, they won’t know who he is.”

“I think it’s going to be very good for both Native Chinese and foreign people to see this really amazing piece of literature being performed.”

TYPECAST: Each of Bus Stop’s eight characters embodies a different stereotypical view of Chinese people

The cast is culturally varied consisting of two Chinese students, while the six others are from a range of countries such as France, Ireland and England.

The amount of time that the students have been studying Chinese spans from four and a half months to a lifetime, with three actors who are first year students.

Alison said: “It’s really amazing what they are taking on right now, because in no way at all have they been speaking Chinese for a long time.”

Alison, who was born and raised in the US in a countryside town in Ohio, was drawn toward studying Chinese at university after spending her childhood immersed in Asian culture.

She said: “I grew up with Asian culture; my best friends were Korean and Chinese.

“It is a really beautiful culture that we should know more about in the west. So I decided to study Chinese in Manchester.

“The way China is today, it is such a prominent country and so many people depend on it.

“It also has this beautiful art culture that is being suppressed by the government; it is kind of my dream to bring that to the people and to let them see the art that local Chinese people are making.”

BANNED: The play is banned in China and the writer Gao Xinjing was forced to flee

The Bus Stop cast includes:

Old Man: Wentao Zhu

Carpenter: Vivian Tan

Hothead: Lani Calvert

Silent Man: Alienor Bombarde

Glasses: Edna Boorman

Director Ma: Romain Malendre

Mother: Wenling Ding

Girl: Elizabeth Green

The performance will be running from 7:30pm on the March 17 and 18 at Space 2 at The Contact Theatre on The University of Manchester Campus.

Tickets can be bought on the door, and cost £9 for an adult or £5 for concessions.

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