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Performing Comic Failure in Waiting for Godot with Jingju Actors

  • WEI FENG

Abstract

Since the 1980s the Taiwanese theatre troupe Contemporary Legend Theatre (CLT) has been devoted to transforming jingju by way of adapting world classics. Through an analysis of its adaptation of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot (2005), this article considers how CLT pushes the boundaries of jingju acting, which is made up of singing, speaking, dance-acting and combat. To meet Beckett's challenge of performing comic failure, CLT integrates jingju restraint and Western slapstick. In so doing, CLT liberates the actors’ bodies from jingju conventions to produce a new aesthetic, which also gives the original play a new metaphysical interpretation.

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References

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NOTES

1 Yanshi, Li, ‘Women Yao Wei Dengdai Er Dengdai Ma? Fang Taiwan Dangdai Chuanqi Yishu Zongjian Wu Xingguo’, Shanghai Xiju, 9 (2015), pp. 1213 , here p. 13.

2 See McMillan, Dougald and Fehsenfeld, Martha, Beckett in the Theatre: The Author as Practical Playwright and Director (London and New York: Riverrun Press, 1988), pp. 143–8.

3 See An-ch'i, Wang, Taiwan Jingju Wushi Nian (Taipei: Guoli Chuantong Yishu Zhongxin, 2002), p. 89 .

4 An-ch'i, Wang, ‘Xu San: Yishu Yuejie’, in Lu, Chienying, ed., Juejing Mengya: Wu Xingguo De Dangdai Chuanqi (Taipei: Tianxia Yuanjian, 2006), pp. 6872 , here p. 69.

5 See Li, ‘Women Yao Wei Dengdai Er Dengdai Ma?’, p. 12.

6 Ruru, Li, The Soul of Beijing Opera: Theatrical Creativity and Continuity in the Changing World (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010), p. 259 .

7 Ibid.

8 Youhan, Chen, Xiqu Biaoyan Gailun (Beijing: Wenhua Yishu Chubanshe, 1996), p. 246.

9 Craig, George and Gunn, Daniel, eds., The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Vol. II, 1941–1956 (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 392 .

10 See Gussow, Mel, Conversations with (and about) Beckett (London: Nick Hern, 1996), p. 41.

11 See Cohn, Ruby, Samuel Beckett: The Comic Gamut (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1962), p. 211 .

12 Gussow, Conversations with (and about) Beckett, p. 33.

13 Beckett, Samuel, Waiting for Godot: A Tragi-comedy in Two Acts , in The Complete Dramatic Works (London: Faber and Faber, 2006), pp. 788 , here p. 34.

14 See Bianchini, Natka, Samuel Beckett's Theatre in America: The Legacy of Alan Schneider as Beckett's American Director (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), p. 30.

15 Kalb, Jonathan, Beckett in Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 24 .

16 Iser, Wolfgang, Prospecting: From Reader Response to Literary Anthropology (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), p. 152.

17 Ibid., p. 163.

18 Li, The Soul of Beijing Opera, p. 260.

19 Riley, Jo, Chinese Theatre and the Actor in Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 178.

20 Specificities differ in different actors’ systems. See ibid., p. 88.

21 See Hsing-kuo, Wu, ‘Canque Yu Cibei De Xiaorong’, Fujian Yishu, 1 (2006), pp. 54–6, here p. 56.

22 See Beckett, Waiting for Godot, pp. 58–9.

23 This translation is based on the original English subtitle in the DVD of this production. I made some changes to represent the syntactical structures of the original Chinese.

24 Wu Hsing-kuo, ‘Interview with Wu Hsing-kuo’ by Wei Feng (15 May 2014). Wu told me that this passage was added and written by Chin Shih-chieh to make it sound ridiculously funny. They planned to demonstrate how the two tramps made a big fuss of waiting.

25 For details of jingju’s lyric structure see Wichmann, Elizabeth, Listening to Theatre: The Aural Dimension of Beijing Opera (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1991), pp. 33–8.

26 Zhaonian, Zhu, Gudian Xiqu Bianju Liulun (Beijing: Zhongguo Xiju Chubanshe, 1986), p. 43.

27 Wichmann, Listening to Theatre, pp. 204, 203.

28 Thorpe, Ashley, The Role of the Chou (‘Clown’) in Traditional Chinese Drama: Comedy, Criticism, and Cosmology on the Chinese Stage (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 2007), p. 173 . Peacock, Louise, Slapstick and Comic Performance: Comedy and Pain (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), p. 36.

29 Tatinge Nascimento, Cláudia, Crossing Cultural Borders through the Actor's Work: Foreign Bodies of Knowledge (London: Routledge, 2009), p. 10.

30 Rushan, Qi, Qi Rushan Tan Mei Lanfang (Beijing: Wenhua Yishu Chubanshe, 2015), p. 133.

31 Thorpe, The Role of the Chou, p. 7.

32 Dale, Alan, Comedy Is a Man in Trouble: Slapstick in American Movies (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), p. 3.

33 Ibid., pp. 3, 4.

34 Bevis, Matthew, Comedy: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 29.

35 McMillan and Fehsenfeld, Beckett in the Theatre, p. 141.

36 Ibid., p. 139.

37 Bergson, Henri, Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic, trans. Brereton, Cloudesely (Rockville: Arc Manor, 2008), p. 43.

38 Wichmann, Listening to Theatre, p. 4.

39 Marmysz, John, Laughing at Nothing: Humor as a Response to Nihilism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003), p. 125 .

40 See Faraone, Mario, ‘“Pity We Haven't a Piece of Rope”: Beckett, Zen and the Lack of a Piece of Rope’, in Guardamagna, Daniela and Sebellin, Rossana M., eds., The Tragic Comedy of Samuel Beckett: Beckett in Rome, 17–19 April 2008 (Rome: Università degli Studi di Roma, 2009), pp. 156–76.

41 See ‘Xingsu Xin Zhongguo Xiqu’, Ershiyi Shiji, 112 (2009), pp. 90–6, here p. 94.

42 Conrad Hyers, M., Zen and the Comic Spirit (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1974), p. 39 .

43 Ibid., p. 90.

44 Wu, ‘Canque Yu Cibei De Xiaorong’, p. 56.

Performing Comic Failure in Waiting for Godot with Jingju Actors

  • WEI FENG

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