Red Rose and White Rose
Grand Theatre, HK Cultural Centre
'Perhaps every man has had these two types of women - at least two,' Shanghai-born novelist Eileen Chang Ai-ling writes in Red Rose and White Rose. When the man gets tired of Red Rose, she writes, red turns into a blot of mosquito bloodstain on the wall while white is the bright moon in front of the bed. When he is married to White Rose, white becomes a grain of rice stuck on a dress while red is the mole on the chest.
It is this sense of intelligence, sensitivity and irony that director Tian Qinxin tries to capture in the National Theatre of China's stage adaptation of this literary classic. And it is a huge challenge. 'Chang's strength lies in her use of words as well as her detailed and vivid depiction of her characters' inner world. However, dialogues are sparse and [the story] is narrated by a third person. It's a huge challenge to adapt that for the stage,' says Tian.
'When we need to turn the third person's narrative into part of a first person's dialogue, we have to be careful not to distort Chang's original meaning or tone.'
The play was first staged last year to celebrate a century of Chinese theatre and has since toured Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing, Wuhan and Shenzhen. It boasts a star-studded cast including Qin Hailu (best actress at Taiwan's Golden Horse Film Festival in 2001 for her role in Durian Durian), and (above from left) Gao Hu, Hu Jingfan and Xin Baiqing.
The crux of Red Rose and White Rose is a story of sexual attraction, temptation and infidelity. Tian, who won acclaim for her adaptation and direction of Xiao Hong's The Field of Life and Death, also sees it as a social commentary on Chinese society in the 1940s as it explores the conflict and contradiction between the protagonist's inner desire and strict Chinese traditions.
'This is [also] a story about a man growing up and that is how I interpret it on stage,' says Tian, who cast two actors - Xin and Gao - for the main role.
'This work was written when Chang was 24 so it's light and full of energy. This play is like a 24-year-old ... it's passionate, rebellious and wild ... I hope the Hong Kong audience will like it.'
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