Sunday, May 2, 2010

Liao Zhai Rocks!

This was my third attendance to a live musical. This time round, it was to watch a Chinese musical "Liao Zhai Rocks!".

It was somewhat an impulsive decision on Saturday evening. My husband and I just had our dinner and were in the vinicity of National Library Board at round 7 pm. My husband faintly remembered that the musical "Liao Zhai Rocks!" was on and nudged me to go with him. As the call operator was no longer in service, we went to the site and bought the tickets on the spot. As it turned it was almost full-house event and we were lucky to be able to grab two tickets.

About Liao Zhai

So how was the show? On a scale of 0 to 10, I would give it an eight. In terms of content, it was A-star. Wu Xi, Resident Director of The Theatre Practice, Liao Zhai Rocks! brought to us the wonderful world of Liao Zhai Zhi Yi, a famous classic collection of almost 500 supernatural tales. The classic was written by Pu Song Ling (1640 to 1715) who conjured up a mystical world of fairies, spirits, celestials, demons and of course, humans. These beings frolicked in a vibrant cacophony of life, a boisterous world of emotional interplay and every shade was displayed in all its hedonistic glory.

The Story

The story was captivating. Now that the curtains of the production had come down, I would jot down as much as I could recall.

The scene started in Hades where the little ghosts pestered the young Sang Xiao to share his story on how he ended up there. Flashback of Sang Xiao three days ago unveiled in the next scene. Sang Xiao, a philandering scholar was on a spring outing when he was smitten by a young woman's beauty. He pursued her mindlessly into the deep forest where spirits and vixens roamed. The young girl was Ying Ning, a vixen spirt who had just attained the power to transform into a human. She was an innocent girl who was quick with laughter, and had no inkling about love. However, upon tasting the sweetness of love, she devoted herself wholeheartedly to Sang Xiao.

The same cannot be said about Sang Xiao who quickly succumbed to the seduction of Feng San Niang, the gorgeous ghost who appeared out of the pond and was bent on seeking out a human body so that she could be rebornt. Sang Xiao was tricked into drinking a poisonous brew and died. Not knowing, the reason for Sang Xiao's death, the love-strucken Ying Ning, embarked on a dangerous journey to save him.

The three met in Hades, together with a Taoist priest, Cheng Ban Xian (the name played on the sound which also meant "half god"). At which time, Sang Xiao quickly fell in love with San Niang and was torn between San Niang and Ying Ning.

The story unfolded further to reveal that Cheng Ban Xian was Feng San Niang's lover in his previous life. Twenty years ago, Ban Xian and San Niang eloped but the latter died as she was tricked to drink the poisonous brew. Ban Xian, too died of grief shortly. While Ban Xian was recarinated, San Niang was trapped in the spirit realm as she was under the curse of the poisonous brew. To break the curse, she would need another human to drink the brew.

The Halls of Hades were out of bound to the undead which Ying Ning and Ban Xian had blatantly flouted. As punishment, the King of Hades sent Sang Xiao and Ban Xian back to the human world while Ying Ning and San Niang remained in the Halls of Hades. Sixty years later, Sang Xiao and Ban Xian died of old age and the four were reunited in the Halls of Hades. Touched by their true love, the King of Hades sent them back to the world, reversing the 60 years of lost time.

San Niang and Ban Xian were reincarnated as a boy and girl who were betrothed to each other at birth. What about Sang Xiao and Ying Ning? Imagine the following scene in your mind:

"Sang Xiao slowly floated out from the pond, as he saw the women walk off, he became pensive as he sat by the pond. He smiled suddenly and howled like a fox and a white fox's tail promptly appeared in the woods".

After experiencing much tribulations, Sang Xiao finally brought Ying Ning "home", but not where humans lived but to the woods where the fox spirits dwelt. With the flash of the white fox tail at the ending, it brought an element of surprise.


Whoever says that Chinese literature is boring should think again? It is really a world of possibilities. It is a world we break away from the shackles of time and space and through our imagination acquires new inspiration and strength.

I would dare say Singapore is being a more vibrant city. With the proliferation of these productions, it will definitely me less dense and more able to appreciate classics and arts. And yes, Singapore Rocks!

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