Theater

Das Kapital the musical!

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The second time as farce

Drawing inspiration from a best-selling Japanese manga adaptation of Das Kapital, Chinese theater producers are planning to bring Marx's masterpiece to the stage.

Yang Shaolin, general manager of the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center, told the Wen Hui Bao that, together with Fudan University economics professor Zhang Jun and other experts, he is preparing a dramatization of Das Kapital. They've already decided on a director: He Nian, who directed the stage adaptation of the hit martial-arts spoof My Own Swordsman (武林外传).

He Nian says he will combine elements from animation, Broadway musicals, and Las Vegas stage shows to bring Marx's economic theories to life as a trendy, interesting, and educational play.

Can it be done?

Laughing at the doubters, Yang Shaolin said that more than a decade ago, when the stage was dominated by the classical unities and the Stanislavsky system, it certainly would have been difficult to imagine Das Kapital adapted into a play with "main characters, major dramatic elements, and profound educational meaning." However, as drama has flourished in many different forms that make use of a variety of different ideas, the stage has opened up to the point that turning a profound theoretic work like Das Kapital into a play is no longer an intractable problem.

To director He Nian, Das Kapital and the theory of surplus value are serious issues, yet he wants to make them fun to watch. He will set the play in a business. In the first half of the story, the employees discover that their boss is exploiting them and learn of the "surplus theory of value." However, they react differently to the knowledge of their exploitation: some are willing to be exploited by the company, and the tighter they are squeezed, the more they feel they are worth. Others rise in mutiny, but this ruins the company and leaves them out of work. Still others band together and use their collective wisdom to deal with the boss....He Nian said that due to the different points of view held by the boss and the workers, he would borrow the structure of Rashomon to show things repeatedly from different viewpoints.

He Nian has always dreamed of making a musical, and music can be found in his earlier works, The Deer and the Cauldron and My Own Swordsman. Das Kapital brings his dream one step closer to reality. This time, he will bring a live band on stage, and the actors will sing and dance in addition to speaking their lines. Scenes from Zhu Deyong's comic strips will show up in Das Kapital, too. "The particular performance style we choose is not important, but Marx's theories cannot be distorted. We'll have professor Zhang Jun and experts from Beijing act as academic advisors for Das Kapital to ensure that this theoretic classic is performed correctly.

As bizarre as this may sound, a theatrical Das Kapital is not an unprecedented undertaking. Japanese writer, translator, and civil servant Sakamoto Masaru (阪本勝) wrote a mammoth stage adaptation of Marx's masterpiece (戯曲資本論, 1931) that was translated into Chinese by Fei Mingjun and published in 1949 as A Dramatic Capital (戏剧资本论).

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There are currently 10 Comments for Das Kapital the musical!.

Comments on Das Kapital the musical!

'The Primitive Accumulation' Boogie! - where do I get a ticket? Though I feel that surely The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon would lend itself better to the stage surely?

Preferred the Grundrisse as death metal myself.

I'm afraid that Chinese socialists know very little about modern Marxism in the West, particularly analytical Marxism, partly because it uses a fair amount of mathematics.

That director did make a sensation with his TV soap opera, but I don't think it is funny at all to try Marx's works.

Note that the director is responsible for the stage adaptation of the TV show My Own Swordsman, not the original, which was written by Ning Caishen and directed by Shang Jing (according to Baidu).

This version of Das Kapital does sound like it'll be more exciting than a sober, Morality Play-type adaptation that one might expect.

PI.. that's funny. I'm no where near your level but I'm just wondering whether their assumption about all the past of communism and all possible future of communism, and also the ultimate superiority of communism ... is valid?!!

Can we psycho-predict/psycho-model human behavior on such a demi-god level then hell yes, communist 4 eva bitches!

He's joking, I assume, considering that China regularly wins the international math olympiad and a bunch of ethnic Chinese ran off with the Fields Medal.

I'm simply... speechless.

Is Danwei so desperate so as to plagiarize from The Onion?!

(I'm hoping) ;)

Eisenstien was developing a movie based on Das Kapital, some notes still available. Why not a musical?

Will act two depict life at the Kolmya Gulag, show trials, or Mao's famine?

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