Marx for the masses
The Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center is preparing to stage a dramatization of Karl Marx's Das Kapital using elements of Broadway musicals and Las Vegas shows.
Yang Shaolin, the general manager of the Center, is working with Fudan University economics professor Zhang Jun and others on the dramatization. They have appointed as director He Nian, who staged the hit martial-arts spoof, My Own Swordsman.
Mr. Yang was quoted on Beijing's Danwei website as saying that, in the past, it would have been almost impossible to conceive of Das Kapital as a play with "main characters, dramatic elements and educational meaning.” In China today, such taboos no longer resonate.
Mr. He added that the theory of surplus value -- while a potentially dry issue -- can be presented as "fun to watch.”
The new musical will be set in a business. At first, the workers learn that their boss is exploiting them, setting them on the path to discovering the truth of the theory of surplus value. They respond in different ways. Some are happy to be exploited -- the more they produce, the more valuable they feel. Others strike and rebel, but their actions destroy the company and render them jobless. A third group pools its resources to open talks with the boss.
Mr. He said that he will use the structure of the classic Japanese film Rashomon, with its switching between viewpoints, to stage the play. Unlike the Japanese masterpiece, Mr. He will have a live band on stage and his actors will sing and dance as well as recite their lines.
Despite the theatrics, the director expressed reverence for the source material: "Marx's theories will be respected." He added that academic experts from Beijing were consulted "to ensure that this classic is performed correctly."