Shanghai bans Vagina Monologues days before premiere

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 February, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 February, 2004, 12:00am

Cultural authorities in Shanghai have called off the mainland's first commercial production of The Vagina Monologues, a taboo-breaking play that celebrates female sexuality and aims to help end violence against women.

The Chinese-language production had been due to premiere at the privately run Shanghai Drama Centre on Tuesday and run until March 10.

'The centre was told last Friday afternoon they couldn't put the show on', a source said. A spokeswoman for the centre confirmed yesterday that the production had been cancelled.

Its producer, Li Shengying, and director, Lei Guohua, could not be reached for comment. They were avoiding publicity, industry insiders said.

An officer at the city's culture watchdog, the Shanghai Culture, Radio, Film and Television Administration, said no one was available for comment.

The Vagina Monologues, written by American Eve Ensler, premiered worldwide in 1997 and got its English-language premiere on the mainland in front of a small expatriate audience at the Shanghai American Club in March 2002, in a production starring Chicago-trained Shanghainese actress Shadow Zhang.

It has since been performed just once on the mainland - students in Zhongshan University in Guangzhou staged an abridged version, in Chinese, in front of a private audience in December.

The play will premiere in Beijing on Saturday at the Today Gallery.

The ticket price - 500 yuan - and the fact it is in English means the audience will probably be made up of expatriates.

As is customary, the proceeds of the Beijing show will go to a centre which combats violence against women.

'Violence against women is a very serious problem in China,' said Rong Weiyi, director of the Network (Research Centre) for Combating Domestic Violence, China Law Society, which will receive the profits.

Ms Rong said a recent report by the centre showed domestic violence occurred in 34.7 per cent of Chinese families. In a December poll by the All-China Women's Federation, nearly 38 per cent of respondents said they had used violence to solve disputes at home, while nearly half of those polled felt it was reasonable for husbands to hit their wives. The federation did not say how many people were polled.

The last play to be banned in Shanghai was a 1998 traditional production of The Peony Pavilion, a 16th-century Ming dynasty masterpiece by Tang Xianzu.

Authorities labelled the play, in which a young girl dreams of her lover, 'feudal, absurd, superstitious and pornographic'.


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