Watched The Theatre Practice's (实践剧场) staging of Kuo Pao Kun's 1969 'The Struggle' 《挣扎》in a brand-new interpretation by Liu Xiaoyi (刘晓义), now titled 'The Struggle: Years Later'《挣扎: 多年以后》. The 1969 original is the only play of Kuo Pao Kun's that has never been staged. 46 years ago, this play was once banned from being performed in public due to its deemed-inflammatory content of labor rights, movement and worker unions in that era, and perhaps sounding like overtones of Communist ideals. The play traces the lives of families evicted from their homes by capitalist landowners who wanted to build factories. The children later on worked in the factories under dismal conditions and they would make the decision to be the agents of change or otherwise.
Directed by Liu Xiaoyi (刘晓义) in Chinese with English surtitles, this play has been improvised, hence the addition of 'Years Later' in the title. The re-visit examines what 'struggle' means to us today. In three parts, only the first part of the play is faithful to the original script, depicting the struggle between employers and workers. Part two and three are respectively set in the 1960s and present day, drawing out the struggles between artist and authority (censorship), as well as man's internal conflict. In an interview, the director said,
Many feelings and thoughts coursed through the mind during the play. It's not as heavy as I'd have preferred it to be. I've read the original play. Kuo Pao Kun was writing pretty much in Chinese all the way till 1983 (some say the contents and topics are slightly leftist), then after that, he switched to writing in English. His pre-1983 works are rarely re-staged. This is certainly no way a re-staging or an improvisation.
Not sure I appreciate this notion of a play within a play, along the lines of the concept of 'metatheatre'. 'Years Later' felt like reading one act of 'The Struggle' and then talking about one's feelings about it ad nauseum. The play completed lost me when it came to the struggles of the artist, creativity and writing. I'm not sure what today's humans want to fight for, and if those could be at all compared to what the original bread and butter struggles were in 1960s. Not that today's struggles aren't important, but it presents a totally different vision and message of the original.