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Stage preview: I Love Peach Blossom

Admittedly, it is difficult to talk about a play with full confidence when the only performance you’ve seen is one in which a translator is bravely attempting to interpret the words on stage into English in your left ear. However, in the one scene of the OU Chinese Drama Society’s new production of the play ‘I Love Peach Blossom’ that I saw, this hardly seemed to matter: the clever direction by Qian Li and the polished – at times graceful – movements of the actors managed to convey more meaning than many English productions I have seen. And – despite my knowledge of Chinese being entirely nonexistent – the language only seemed to heighten the drama instead of distancing me from the action, which could have been a potential problem for a non-Chinese speaking audience.

The production centres on a love triangle between three actors (played by Bing Su, Moyang Chen and Yuchen Xia), who cannot decide on how to finish their play. But (and this is where things get a little confusing) the play they are performing is itself about a love triangle, which becomes increasingly sinister when the wife’s lover Yan is trapped inside her bedroom after her drunken husband Yin returns home unexpectedly.

Eventually the play-within-a-play descends into violence, with the actors arguing over who deserves to be killed: should Yan obey his lover’s wishes and stab her husband? Or should the actors keep with tradition and let the wife be murdered for enticing Yan to commit such a terrible deed? As the play continues, the outside world of the actors merges with the world of the play, providing a fascinating comment on the connection between China’s past and present.

This unique production by the university’s Chinese Drama Society stands out among Oxford’s range of theatre, which at times can feel slightly boxed-in. The skilled performances of the actors – together with the excellent music and costumes – should create an exceptional atmosphere within the intimate confines of the BT. And fortunately for any members of the audience who don’t speak Chinese, no translator will be needed: surtitles will be included for the actual production.

‘I Love Peach Blossom’ by Jingzhi Zou will be on at the BT from Tuesday 5th – Saturday 9th February, at 7.30pm.

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