Must say, that Beijing is a pretty famous place when it comes to theatre productions. Just like any other major capital in the world, London, New York, Seoul, Tokyo as well as Shanghai. But having seen performing arts in several countries in the world, I have to say that the vibe in Beijing is very different and very cool indeed!
Here I will explain to you some of the great night spectacles you should definitely go and see before you die. Perhaps one day I will make such a list of “shows to see before you die”. But until then, I’ll just show you my personal favourites. And just want to mention I have no commercial ties with these theatres, they are honest reviews from real experiences. Har, har. Those who are living in Beijing or know about China more than the average will understand my previous joke. Those who don’t, well, don’t mind me. Read along and go and see these amazing spectacles!
First stop is Red Theater. Which represents some of the most golden memories I have from my home city. About once a year, I get a group of expats together ,and go to watch the show. I can simply never get enough of the beautiful story, performance and all it’s nuances that you start to learn only after you understand a few good points about kung fu, the main topic of the show.
1) Kung Fu is not like in the movies. When you see a hollywood flick, or even one of Jackie’s films you create a certain impression about the art of Kung Fu. But it’s not just some cool moves, it’s a well respected martial art in China. Red Theater is proud of their Chinese heritage, and these extremely skilful and bolded guys are trained hard. According to traditions, you are suppose to make purposeful moves, and that’s why this theater production has tremendous educational value. It’s cool but, you need to see beyond and understand. In other words, respect goes a long way!
2) Yes, there are touristic groups that come to see the show. I’ve heard so much negative feedback about how the venue is touristy or something. When people simply do not understand. Chinese love to go there too, and Chinese are also tourists! The popularity of this show, is because it’s simply amazing. In fact, overall in the city you can go to see acrobatics for example which will be much much more touristy. People just like to complain about everything I guess.
So what’s my final verdict? Well, a classic is a classic. The story of a boy that grows up to become the master of Kung Fu just has to be awesome. It’s well done and touches the heart of those who dare to watch it. With a good balance of action and deep emotions that come tumbling down on you like there is no mercy.. Well, that’s simply entertainment at it’s best. You won’t be disappointed is all I can say. Check out the amazing Red Theater Kung Fu Show!!!
Into Chinese ancient culture and history? Not? Well. Don’t worry. Me neither. Beijing Opera is actually a really really cool performing art, that cannot be missed even if you are not “usually into that sort of thing”, type of person. I avoided it myself for years. Until, I got a free ticket and I just had to go. My first reaction was to open my mouth and keep it that way for the duration of an hour. Simply wicked.
Of course you need to have a bit of appreciation for artistic value, but especially if you dig the crazy Chinese style whatever that is. The Huguang Hall will be filled with that exact energy, that made me comfortable amongst this cool population in the first place! I have no idea what “Huguang” means, but it sounds pretty awesome as well. But for the meaning of “Opera”, well it was transformed in one single night. I had to go out drinking after that and tell everyone the truth.
I hear a lot of Chinese young folks like that stuff too, now I even understand that. The music is not like the best I have ever heard. But even that concept totally blew my mind when I heard electronic beats mixed with it. A classical Chinese orchestra and the singing fits perfectly with it. Having a mind blowing experience became a bit of a trend. So I decided to take it to the extreme challenge.
I invited a friend of mine, who doesn’t care anything about any performing arts or theater. If you ask him, he would just go to a football game for all his life and be happy without knowing anything about “culture”. So we did a deal, I went to see his football match and he went to see the opera at Huguang Guild Hall. Turns out, both of us enjoyed the experience very much. While both of us will agree not to go to see that again, it was definitely an experience well worth it. While football and opera are kind of like from a totally different world. I can say with a fair bit of confidence that opera is still more entertaining at least in the sense that it has some value in it. Ha, there I said it.
But here at Beijing cool, we respect the fact that everyone has their own concepts in lame and cool. We just educate and if someone likes then, everyone happy. If not, that’s life.
So which one would you go to see in Beijing, the action packed kung fu classic at Red Theater, or the wicked, crazy, ancient and unknown Huguang Guild Hall Opera? Please, let me know in the comments!
Until next time. Your friend and Beijing/China expert.