Theater feast pays tribute to the unsung heroes in Wuhan
The anti-epidemic themed drama Retrograde by Wuhan People's Art Theater premiered in Wuhan Zhongnan Theater on Sept 10. In protective clothing and white coat, the actors offered a striking interpretation of the touching stories of the medical staff fighting the epidemic. This is the second anti-epidemic drama created by Wuhan People's Art Theater this year. Medical workers, community workers, volunteers and teachers who fought on the frontline of the epidemic attended the premiere.
The drama Retrograde is based on the "retrograde" deeds of Liu Yuxian, director of the department of respiratory medicine of a hospital in Wuhan. While battling with his own terminal illness, he keeps fighting the epidemic by saving lives. The drama has the extraordinary figure, the complex emotional entanglement and encouraging theme, in which Liu, along with his teacher Jiang Lingyun and the take-away rider Chen Hansheng, explores the heroic spirit of the Wuhan people in the fight against the epidemic.
The play is directed by Wang Xiaoying, vice chairman of the Chinese Dramatists Association, written by the famous playwright Zhao Ruitai, and vice president of Jinyintan Hospital Huang Chaolin as the medical consultant.
Lu Yu, the Chinese drama "Golden Lion Award" winner who plays the part of Liu Yuxian, says all the actors in this play are witnesses of the epidemic, and they can interpret the characters with genuine feelings.
"During the entire epidemic, many Party members from our theater were also in the forefront and they understood the situation wholeheartedly. In the drama we did our best to portray the praises and tears that have been manifested in the fight against the epidemic in Wuhan," he says.
The plot shows the profound impact of the epidemic on the city from a social perspective, including the biggest theme that is the trials of life. Actors also pay attention to that very real experience and feeling in the creation, and Lu believes their performance has transcended the spirit conveyed by the original script.
Wang Xiaoying, the chief director of the play, says it is indispensable that this play is rehearsed in Wuhan where our empathy and resonance would render the drama special. The drama does highlight the main line of the noble humanity of medical staff, but a particular emphasis lies in portraying the heroic people in a heroic city.
Wang devoted much of his time talking with actors, digging out their real feelings during the epidemic, and transforming them into the roles they play. He says the show is a saga of the life in Wuhan in a poetic way. With the aid of lighting and stage art, they hope the whole country will identify with these actors for the stories that touch and heal people's souls. It is a kind of distillation of understanding in the last line of the show, "the city remains intact, but we are no longer who we used to be".
The playwright Zhao Ruitai says he has been living in Wuhan for 60 years and has a profound love for the city. At the peak of the epidemic, the busy streets of Wuhan were empty. On the third day of the Spring Festival holidays, people confined at home opened their windows in the evening, and shouted and prayed for Wuhan. He took the initiative and wrote the play for the city's anti-epidemic feat. He hopes the audience would know that they constitute their own arena of value and they should ponder on life's meaningfulness, one that has been generally neglected but reexamined during the epidemic.
Wu Yaling, the principal of Wuhan Yucai Yikang Primary School, says after the premiere: "The people of Wuhan in the moment of crisis are united to fight the epidemic. When the actors chanted 'Come on Wuhan', I saw many audiences shed tears. Thank you retrogrades. You are the people who have worked hard for Wuhan. It is you who led us out of the haze and usher in the warmth of spring."