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Check Out 'The Great Theater of China', a Newly Reopened Venue for Esoteric Plays
By Jul 6, 2018 Arts
Culture vultures, here's an item of interest. The Great Theater of China, an 88-year-old, medium-scale theater venue five minutes from Nanjing Dong Lu, has recently reopened after six years of renovations. Formerly one of the the top four Peking Opera houses in Shanghai, they opened their doors to the public last month and are hosting a three-month program of international avant garde theater. SmSh popped by last week for a staging of the Pulitzer-winning drama "Disgraced". Due to language barriers (not to mention the venue's own promotional missteps), it's not the most accessible program in the world, but we'll give you a look inside and point you in the right direction if you want to try to see one of the plays.

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You know it's a big deal because they've got both "Great" AND "China" in their name. By government mandate, only selected venues in the PRC are afforded the honor of using "China" in their names. You've really got to represent. The restorations of the Great Theater were undertaken by architectural firm RHWL, who restored its original classic structure and spruced up the interiors, giving it a regal and international character, in sharp contrast to its neighbors on the street.

Shanghai"

Shanghai"

The auditorium has three tiers with a total of 878 seats. A giant blooming lotus flower lends some flair to the proceedings. As the venue mainly hosts plays, the ideal seating is probably in the middle section of the first tier and the front of the second. The third tier is less than ideal unless you enjoy looking down on actors heads.

Shanghai"

The hardware, in general, is top-notch. For "Disgraced", a play that takes place in a stylish Manhattan apartment, everything from the lighting, sound, and stage production were quite exceptional. However, this dialogue-heavy drama also shows a design flaw of the theatre: subtitles are displayed on small rectangle screens placed on the left and right side, which makes it difficult to catch the performance and the subtitles simultaneously. To nick-pick a bit more: leg room is insufficient for people over 175cm.

Shanghai"

The three-month opening program for The Great Theatre of China is ambitious, and features works performed in French, Italian, Chinese, and English. Renowned female director Tian Xinxin has curated 19 plays for the inaugural season, covering domestic and international productions. It's all pretty deep cuts, with subtitles in Chinese only. Most notably, Thomas Ostermeier's "Hedda Gabler" and Romeo Castellucci's "On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God" (very controversial, it seems) will both make their debut in Shanghai in the upcoming weeks.

Tickets usually cost around 180rmb to 580rmb, and currently... they have a lot of them for sale. Expect to see Q&As and talks during each show. The Great Theatre of China doesn't have an official site yet, so everything you need to know about the future program is on WeChat (search: 中国大戏院), in Chinese. "On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God" is available on Daimai's English site now.

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The Great Theater of China is at 704 Niuzhuang Lu, near Zhejiang Zhong Lu.

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