I just watched a highly entertaining experimental play called Life Attitude of Two Dogs by Meng Jinghui, arguably China’s drama king, at least in terms of avant-garde stage.
The dog show is about the struggle of two dogs in the city after fleeing their village. As suggested by their names Wang Cai and Lai Fu (in Chinese words play, they mean roughly ‘looking for fortune’), the two dogs have high hopes for their new life. The reality, however, his much harsher. They perform in the street; take part in talent show; (in fact, the whole thing is a mixture of drama and talent show); one is thrown in jail and the other is being tricked by greedy doctor after he falls ill; they are adopted by a rich family and then abandoned and come to street again. Through thick and thin, the two dogs who become sworn brothers, help each other and never lose hope.
It is high-energy, very funny ranting about life’s hardship. It does touches upon some serious social issues such as corruption, high property price and such. But I find the ranting isn’t coherent enough – yes, I know it is modern, experimental and absurd. There simply isn’t a narrative. Half way through, my friend Louisa Lim, NPR’s China correspondent and a fluent – almost natural Chinese speaker, said to me: “I understand every words but I don’t have a bloody clue what’s going on.” I replied: “Nor do I.” Maybe I laughed too much that I forgot to read between the lines?
Dogs often refer to low lives. I wonder if they may imply migrant workers. Well, we journalists tend to intellectualize things. It’s just a play, a show, a performance. We had a jolly good time, like the rest of the audience that filled the small theatre. It was so popular that we had to buy from the hands of scalpers for a high price.
The play is very interactive. From time to time, the two actors – both of them multi-talented – came down from the stage, walking between the rolls as part of the performance or even grabbing fancy leather bags from the audience! Desperate, the two dogs start to rob.
Two Dog became a big hit ever since it was first staged in 2007.
I am very pleased to see there is a lively stage scene in China. On Thursday, I am going to see Meng’s musical First Love with my girls, all part of Meng Jinghui season. In early March, I’ll definitely try to secure a ticket for Rhinoceros’ Love, about obsessive love, a play that made Meng’s name. (He must be an animal lover!)