Chinese drama is finding a home in Australia's competitive theater industry with two landmark productions opening this month that will restyle the shape of bilingual theater for years to come.
The National Theater of China and PlayKing Productions have garnered wide acclaim for their Sydney and upcoming Melbourne season of the award winning Chinese-Australian production Cho Cho.
With six breakthrough performances at The Concourse Theater, Chatswood in September and now the upcoming Arts Center Melbourne production from Oct. 2-6, Cho Cho encompasses theater, music and puppetry and stars Australian musical theater star Scott Irwin ( Hairspray), director Peter Wilson (King Kong), plus Chinese pop star Wang Zheng.
Set in Shanghai and directed by Peter Wilson, Cho Cho is definitely an Australian-first: a bilingual musical drama.
The show premiered at the National Theater of China in Beijing in January and won the theater and partnership categories of the Australian Arts in Asia Awards.
Cho Cho is an updated version of Australian writer Daniel Keene 's 1980s reworking of Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly, exploring the theme of cross cultural misunderstanding leading ultimately to tragedy.
Set in the bustling 1930s Shanghai, the story centers on a young girl who catches the attention of an American Lieutenant, and the ensuing tragedy.
Opening Wednesday in Sydney, Fight the Landlord: Dou Di Zhu, reflects the emergence of a new generation of contemporary dramaturgs inspired by a China during this time of unprecedented change.
In a world-first international collaboration, Fight the Landlord is a collaboration between Ireland's Pan Pan Theater and Beijing's Square Moon Culture.
Presented by Carriageworks in Sydney for the first time, this is ground breaking international theater at its best.
Running at the popular Carriageworks from Oct. 2-5, Fight the Landlord has already toured extensively to wide acclaim, including performances to packed audiences at Shanghai's World Expo in 2010.
It has since also completed sell out seasons in 2012 at the Darwin Festival and the Victorian Arts Center, where it received glowing reviews for its unique blend of fast paced, wise-cracking comedy drama which celebrates life growing up in China today.
Fight the Landlord is presented entirely in Mandarin with English surtitles.
Set around a card table, amidst a forest of plastic trees, three girls are dressed as pandas. Gradually they begin a game of 'Fight the Landlord.' As the stakes are raised, so too is the intensity of conversation.
The energetic piece explores every aspect of modern day China, from celebrity gossip, to property prices, living off parents, divorce, love, and luxury.
In keeping with the duality and uncertainty of modern life, the performers' relationships are in flux. "Comrades" become enemies; relationships constantly shift, wavering between a passionate love triangle; a family of three; a psychiatrist and unhappy couple; a real-estate agent and home buyers and internet friends who have never met.
Featuring a Chinese cast of Generation Y actors, Fight the Landlord is the brainchild of Pan Pan's artistic directors Gavin Quinn and Aedn Cosgrove. It has also been devised with Chinese writer and performer Sun Yue who previously performed in Pan Pan's acclaimed Chinese version of Synge's The Playboy of the Western World in Beijing and Dublin in 2006.
Carriageworks Director, Lisa Havilah, told Xinhua that the production will strike a chord with Australia's sophisticated and multicultural audiences.
"Fight the Landlord perfectly marches our commitment to reflect the cultural diversity of wider Australia," she said.
"We are delighted to be bringing this original new theater work to Sydney audiences for the first time ... It is a rare opportunity as an artistic director to present a truly ground breaking example of international collaborations. Fight the Landlord overcomes the tyranny of geography, language and distance to provide rare insights into this fascinating ancient culture in a state of flux."