CULTURE

Amore takes audiences to China of 13th century

Currently on the main stage of the Amore Theater is «The Orphan of Zhao,» which takes us back to the outset of Chinese theater, in the 13th century, and ranks as one of the period’s most significant surviving works. «This is the period when China was governed by the occupying Mongols, who precipitated change and abolished stern tradition, which was the cause for virtually no change between 400 BC and AD 1200,» noted Thomas Moschopoulos, director of the Amore production. «So theater’s development, a form of art that had been almost persecuted until then, also became possible in China,» he added. Written by Ji Junxiang, a playwright about whom little is known, «The Orphan of Zhao» was the first Chinese play to be translated in the West. Inspired by the play, based on an historical tale that salutes the spirit of revenge, Voltaire wrote his own version, «A Chinese Orphan,» that was presented with great success at the Comedie Francaise. Moreover, Bertolt Brecht, who was greatly influenced by Chinese drama, carefully studied «The Orphan of Zhao.» The story begins with Zhao Dun, an honorable official, framed by Tu Anjia, a treacherous court official of the State of Jin. Consequently, more 300 members of Zhao’s family are killed. To protect the only baby of the Zhao clan, a doctor by the name of Cheng Ying exchanged his own son for the orphan, and Gongsun Chujiu, an officer guarding the city gate, sacrificed his own life to save the Zhao orphan. Two decades later, the doctor reveals the entire story to the grown-up orphan, who reacts by killing Tu Anjia. «It had been sitting in my library for quite some time, but I hadn’t read it,» said the director. «But when I did, my reaction was immediate. Its simplicity was overwhelming. A very simple story, almost like a tale whose form is completely open and allows you to play around and try new codes,» Moschopoulos added. Viewing the orphan’s act of revenge as one carried out with extreme barbarity, the director likened it to the recent developments in Iraq, where, according to Moschopoulos, the victims of oppression turned savage themselves. «With Saddam Hussein’s execution, the revengers resorted to inhuman ways, just as he had done… power’s vicious cycle,» commented Moschopoulos. The archetypal simplicity of the play, its characters and their clashes led Moschopoulos to a transparent rendition of the story, without any covert dimensions, he said. Also, the dialogue is characterized by crystal-clear realism. A musical element also comes into play wherever moments of elevated emotion need to be highlighted. Here, a singing character is backed by music written by local producer and musician Coti K. Moschopoulos said there had been some consideration, during the production’s embryonic stages, to also perform the play at the upcoming Beijing Olympics. The prospect, he said, eclipsed any thoughts of adding Chinese elements to the Amore Theater’s production. «That would have been hideous,» stressed Moschopoulos. «I tried – along with choreographer Martha Kloukina, a close associate in recent productions – to find a code whose roots contained elements of the Far East drama’s philosophy and structure, as well as views of contemporary artists such as [Wassily] Kandinsky and [Paul] Klee, who were influenced by Far Eastern art, even though nothing in their work reminds us of this.» The production’s minimalist stage design hints more at Kandinsky and Klee than China, the director said. The production’s bright and colorful costumes, Moschopoulos said, served as the only strong Chinese reference. The director said his choice of the actor Christos Loulis as the tyrant was intended to «make the bad guy look brightly bad, not miserable.» Nikos Hadzopoulos was cast as the doctor. The cast also includes Costas Berikopoulos, Anna Kalaitzidou, Thanos Tokakis and Ilias Panagiotakopoulos. Amore Theater: 10 Prigiponnisson, Polygono, tel 210.646.8009.