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Play sets tongues wagging as relations come under spotlight

By ZHANG KUN in Shanghai | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-09-22 08:05

Perfect Strangers by the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre premiered on Sept 8 and will run until Sunday. The play is a comedy featuring seven protagonists who come together for a dinner party on an evening when an eclipse is taking place. CHINA DAILY

The new play Perfect Strangers by the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre has been the talk of the town because of its focus on common relationship problems faced by urban dwellers.

The latest theater adaptation of the 2016 Italian movie Perfetti sconosciuti by Paolo Genovese, Perfect Strangers premiered on Sept 8 and will run until Sunday at the center before going on a tour of Tianjin, Dalian in Liaoning province, Lishui in Zhejiang province and Xi'an in Shaanxi province.

The production will go on more tours next year as well as participate in a comedy festival in Beijing, according to Ma Yue, director of the play.

Perfect Strangers is a comedy featuring seven protagonists who come together for a dinner party on an evening when an eclipse is taking place. The characters then decide to play a game in which everyone places their mobile phones on the table and shares all the messages, emails and phone calls they receive.

The movie was listed in the Guinness World Records as the most remade in the history of cinema in 2019.

In that year, 18 remakes had been made and eight other adaptations were in the pipeline. In China, the movie was adapted into a film titled Kill Mobile in 2018.

Genovese once said in an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica that the movie "has been able to intercept a social phenomenon which everyone identified with."

Ma says that she wanted to adapt the movie for theater as soon as she saw the Italian original in Shanghai in 2017.

"It successfully captured some of the most common issues of humanity and created a situation that pushed the widely observed difficulties, conflicts and relationship problems in contemporary life to the extreme, which people of different countries and cultural backgrounds all resonate with," she told China Daily.

Ma points out that Genovese's movie is ideal for a theater adaptation as the story involves seven characters in a closed setting and period.

"But to adapt it for theater, we have to make it exciting for Chinese audiences who might already be familiar with the movie," she notes.

During the stage design process, Ma had the walls between the different sections of the household removed, with the dining room, sitting room and toilet spread out on the stage to enable different threads of the story to push forward at the same time.

For the prop design, she had two 13-meter-long screens made. In this latest Chinese rendition of the movie, a translucent screen stands in front of the stage before the dramatic events unfold.

The other is a mirror that gradually descends as the evening goes on and secrets are unveiled.

At the end of the show, the translucent screen between the performers and audience goes back up again.

As the stage lights dim, the screen turns into a mirror that shows the audience their reflections.

"I hope that after watching this production they will step out of the theater reflecting on their own lives instead of succumbing to the impulse to check their partner's mobile phone," says Ma.

If you go

Perfect Strangers

7:30 pm, Sept 8-24 (no shows on Monday, matinee only at 2 pm on Sunday);

2 pm Sept 16 and 23.

Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre, Drama Theater, 1F, 288 Anfu Road, Xuhui district, Shanghai.


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