The Arrest of Ai Weiei – Review

May 28, 2013

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The theatre was packed, and even though the majority were just white middle class people, I was still thrilled to sense everyone’s excitement and anticipation, and grateful for the fascination China has for people living in the West.

After the play, some of the audience stood up and applauded. People were clearly delighted with what they had just seen. Overall the play was interesting and engaging – with a good mixture of serious analysis and humour.

The play had a brilliant opportunity to do something original with this intriguing story, yet I was disappointed to see almost everything happened in a confined interrogation space. It is a cliché of so many other films and plays on similar topics – with people tied up in a chair. I believe it is the time to challenge this formula and break old boundaries.

The play bravely gives every character a personality. Whether it is the prisoner, the prison guards, interrogators or the politicians. By looking at these peoples’ emotions and stories, the play displayed a more direct and sensitive outlook on daily lives in China.

The play also tried to explain Chinese inner government power struggles between different political groups. I don’t know whether the Western audience was familiar with this topic but it certainly tried to demonstrate the well-known fact in China: 一个共产党,许多政治党派 (one Central Committee, many political groups). Within the Communist Party of China, there are many groups of politicians who have very different views on how to govern China. For example: Some hold the view that China should be ruled with an iron fist and anti-Western values like that of Mao Zedong; some believe in military power over economic power; and others believe in a softer approach and certain levels of social freedom, like that of Deng Xiaoping. These political groups within the committee constantly battle over the control of China.

There are some ideologies from the play which raised bigger concerns for me. I’ve covered them more in my next blog post.

The Official Theatre website

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