This post is also available in: 简体中文 (Chinese (Simplified))
Poison is a well acclaimed play written by Dutch writer Lot Vekemans. It was first directed by Johan Simons during his tenure as the artistic director in NT Gent Theatre. Later the play was translated into various languages and performed in Europe, South America and Mexico. Johan Simons’s production was also invited by the first Lin Zhaohua Theatre Arts Festival (2010). The two performances in Beijing Capital Theatre was well received.
In 2016, Vertebra Theatre cordially invites Belgian director Jeroen Versteele to join this cross-nation production collaborating with well-known Chinese actors Luo Haiqiong, Hou Yan Song to present Poison in Chinese. The Chinese context brought into the original play will definitely leave the Chinese audience with a deep impression.
This is a story about a couple who are faced with deep crisis. The woman, played by Luo Haiqiong, meets again with her former husband in the cemetery where buries their only child several years after their divorce. The husband moved to Honkong after leaving his wife and started a new life while the woman remained living under the same old roof, intolerant of any idea about starting her life all over again.
The reunion is due to a letter which informs the two that the cemetery will be relocated because of the “poison” found in the soil. During the few hours, the former couple attempts to reexamine the past.
The play unfolds the very personal fates and happenings of the two human beings as well as their different approaches towards the death of their only child. A question about how to dispel？
By Lot Vekemans (Holland)
Directed by Jeroen Versteele (Belgium)
Starring by Zhou Yemang, Li Zheng
rEVIEW FROM AUDIENCE
I watched Poison starring Mr Zhou Yemang and Ms Li Zheng, who are both popular actors in the theatre, on 29th December at Inside-out Theatre. The story goes like this: a French man married a Dutch lady and had a son who, unfortunately, died in a car accident and the couple broke up after such an accident. Nine years later, the soil in the graveyard where the son was buried was found to be toxic and needed to be removed. The man and the woman met again in the graveyard. By the time the man had remarried and was expecting the birth of another child of his while the woman was still in sorrow. The two initially talked in a rather reserved manner, and later started to accuse each other, eventually understanding, comforting and encouraging each other to move on.
Although the story takes place in Western Europe, it expresses something universal: the journey of life is always beset with difficulties. The true hero, however, aware of the desolution in life, still lives with an indomitable spirit and has a deep sympathy for people and understands others. The play reminds me of Chekhov: The playwright reveals the extremely delicate inner lives of two middle-aged men and women with poetic lines full of emotions and wisdom, and such inner emotions guide the development of the plot, which reveals the nature of life.
Mr Zhou Yemang performed especially well in the play: Mr. Zhou has been doing foreign plays for more than 30 years and he has vividly shown the Chinese audience the mentality of a middle-aged middle-class man from Europe. The stage is set in a clean and clear style, which, with the help of the inspiring lighting and stunts, effectively helps express the character’s mood and emotion. This show is really a good medicine to manage psychological trauma.
This is a stage of only two people. It is about a thing that happened between the men and women ten years ago. The show lasts for an hour, but something that happens within this hour may never come to an end in such a short period of time. Maybe in the days ahead, the woman still can not forget about the sorrow brought by the car accident a decade ago, and when the man returns to his wife abroad, he will probably be engaged in attending his next child, and he may soon finish his novel about himself and the dead child. Sometimes people change easily: one moment they are suddenly struck by an idea and they change completely. Yet sometimes they can hardly change, even if after ten years. Although it seems that in the end the woman is somehow affected by the man’s emotions and is determined to start a new life, it is hard to say whether it is really possible for her to throw aside everything and start over again. There are people and things that could never be abandoned, for example, the child lying in the coffin in the graveyard. According to research, when grief exists in the gray matter of the brain, it makes up almost all parts of the brain of women’s, while merely a few points in men’s, which probably explains why a man can put aside grief in a much shorter period of time than a woman does and why women tend to remain sad. As a woman, however, I find it really hard to understand how the pain caused by the departure of a child can easily be alleviated. This show is not merely about a child, but about many issues, such as differences in the way men and women think and the way different people perceive the same thing. It reminds me of the play “Lost Property”. Both plays explore how different people react to something that happend. There would always be someone who takes the first step into a new life, and someone who are unwilling to give up things they once held so dearly, thus stays at the same place and makes little headway.
“Poison” is about an irreversible event that faces the man and woman while in “Lost Property ” the characters are faced with different events: the man is waiting for the woman to find herself yet the woman sees the man’s name on the death list. So the man is seeking a relationship that is cut down by a disaster and the woman is faced with death. But in general, both pieces are stories of emotions that have changed. In “Poison” the love for the child has never changed yet the child dies, and in “Lost Property” feelings from both sides of the relationship have changed. The man said in the play, “we lost a child, then we lost ourselves and we finally lost each other.” But have they really lost themselves? It is hard to judge if one is being his reall self in normal conditions. More often, one only reveals himself in abnormal situations. This is probably why the feelings generated under many extreme circumstances will last long because those are something of the true self. The ending of “Poison” is that the woman goes home, seemingly out of sadness, as if she could start over again after an afternoon’s chatting and thinking. The ending of “Lost Property” is, similarly, that everyone has decided to start a new life. However, there will always be some people who choose to keep company with the unchanged, with the graveyard. They choose to stay where they are, waiting for the lost properties to be found again.
photos credit: Yin Xuefeng