Friday, October 7, 2011

Red Detachment of Women

Another action-packed day. Don't know how mum does it. First the Forbidden City, from south to north gates and a lot of gates, halls and vast open spaces in between. It's designed to impress, and it does. But we also like the more intimate courtyards on the west side where the concubines and families lived, and the garden by the north gate.

An early supper at Dadong Peking Roast Duck Restaurant (mum tucked it all away), then off to the National Centre for Performing Arts (aka The Egg) to see the National Ballet of China perform The Red Detachment of Women. It was originally a novel, and then two films, plus an opera. The ballet was one of the 'eight model plays', the only ones permitted during the Cultural Revolution, and was seen by Nixon when he came to China in 1972. 
It's a fairly run-of-the-mill political tale of a peasant girl who joins the all-female Special Company of the Red Army during the 1930s Civil War, but beautifully choreographed, danced and staged. It's based on fact: there were a hundred women in the brigade, and a handful are still alive. I have an original 1970s China Recording Company 10" EP with piano versions of some of the music which I 'inherited' from a decommissioned public library. Incidentally, The Egg lived up to its name tonight, reflected in the mirror-like lake that surrounds it (see left).

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