A night at the Beijing Opera
Well, yes, it IS culture - but it's actually a HOOT! I sniggered in my beard when it started, but then I realised it was meant to be funny, so I laughed properly instead ..
First of all, we could see the artistes and their maquillage in the outer foyer - pretending they couldn't see us, as they painted thick stylised faces - lots of white base, black and red eye makeup. Then into the theatre. Chinese opera is a total mix - mime, juggling, acrobatics, farce, bit of high pitched singing, lots of shouting, accompanied by gongs, drums, cymbals, rather in the style of the old organ players for the silent movies.
Ok then - three short pieces - I rather suspect cut down for the tourist market - barely a Chinese face in the audience.
1) Our hero turns up at a villainous inn and suspects his wildly leaping landlord to be (rightly) a murdering brigand. With all the lights shining brightly on the stage, and with just a table as a prop, they stalk each other in the blacked-out inn, swiping with swords, tumbling under and over the table. We can see them, but they can't see each other. The timing is outstanding and totally hilarious - I can't describe this well enough. The hero wins, of course ..
2) Young high-pitched nun, dressed most inappropriately in highly embroidered and bejewelled silk clothing, summons the old boatman to take her down the river to chase after her beloved, a student. A few liberties taken with the story, I believe, both here and to our western eyes ... The boatman, armed only with a long pole and an imaginary boat, teases her, takes her on board. They rock up and down and side to side alternately to simulate the boat on the water. Incongruous - she in her silks playing farce... I loved it.
3) Another young girl is searching for an immortal herb - to steal it - fie on her. She ends up fighting off a small army of young men, by virtue of tossing canes at them with her feet, which slay them temporarily, but they come back to life, and toss the canes around to each other and back at her. Fab fast juggling.
You had to be there and infinitely much better than I thought it would be - slick, shiny and very talented.
Some people were dining during the performance. So unlike our own dear stuffiness.