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Solving a classic dilemma

By Wang Kaihao | China Daily | Updated: 2020-09-30 08:11

Li Zhe, one of the four young Peking Opera performers playing the role of Sun Wukong in the Peking Opera film, Havoc in Heaven.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Older generations around the world share at least one common concern: How to get younger people, hooked on their electronic gadgets, interested in classic literature. Take the Monkey King, or Sun Wukong, as an example. The protagonist in the 16th-century classic novel, Journey to the West, is a romantic figure of bravery and adventure that had enthralled millions of readers prior to the appearance of online attractions.

Havoc in Heaven, a Peking Opera film released on Sept 18, may attract the wider public to the glamour of the traditional Chinese performance art, featuring one of the best-known chapters from Journey to the West.

This remake, which is presented by Fujian Film Studio and Fujian Peking Opera Theater, is an eagerly anticipated highlight of a national project initiated in 2011 targeting Peking Opera films, and is, so far, the only production focusing on martial arts in the repertoire, according to Cheng Lu, director of the film.

"It's a big challenge to combine Peking Opera and film, each of which has its own rhythm," Cheng says in an interview with China Daily. "Havoc in Heaven includes nearly all the key ingredients of Peking Opera: It covers all the basic techniques, more than 10 classic tunes, and makeup for dozens of facial representations of different figures' characteristics.

"If we can use a fresh approach to present the traditional art form, it may create a new channel to promote Peking Opera."

Cheng grew up in a Peking Opera family and used to be a performer at the Fujian Peking Opera Theater which staged classic pieces, such as Havoc in Heaven. He later switched to work as a director for other genres of films and TV, but his deep affection for the traditional art form never diminished.

"My parents used to tell me: 'Love for Peking Opera is like an incurable disease. Once you've got it, you'll never get rid of it,'" he recalls. "I only began to understand what they meant since I came back to direct this film in 2017."

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