Choking to death
A runaway hit on Beijing’s stage highlights the plight of China’s creative industry under the yoke of nonsensical censorship and the hopelessness of its struggle for more breathing room.
A comedy writer encounters a military officer who has just returned from the battleground, with one eye covered by a patch.
He needs the latter to give the green light to his latest project so that his troupe of stage actors can perform. But he is facing someone who has no love for the genre. “People have no need for laughter during a time of war,” argues the censor, who in the next seven days picks apart the script and pushes for hilarious changes.
This is the plot of Sorrows of Comedy, which recently completed its 18-day run at Beijing People’s Art Theater. The obvious draw – no doubt about it – was Chen Daoming, whose first stage appearance after a superstar career on the screen was widely anticipated. If people came for the star, they stayed for the play, making it the biggest hit in the theater’s history.