The Execution of the Judge of Hell is an innovative attempt at reviving traditional dramatic arts that blends Chinese shadow puppetry with Peking Opera.

The play tells the story of how You Liugui, a lamplighter in Hell, stumbles upon the son of the Judge of Hell when he murders a woman named Liu Jinchan during the Lantern Festival.

To shield his son, the Judge of Hell convicts Liu’s cousin and sentences him to death. Enraged by the injustice, You guides the victim’s ghost to seek out Bao Gong, a historic judge known for his incorruptibility.

Han Chi, artistic director of Han Feizi Shadow Puppet Company, and Sarah Oppenheim, a 30-year-old French theatre director, cooperated to develop the new play.

When asked why they chose You Liugui as the leading character rather than the more recognizable Bao Gong, Oppenheim said he’s a more “human” link.

“Bao Gong is like a god and hero in the Chinese consciousness. There’s a huge distance between him and ordinary people. Viewers are more able to relate to a humble lamplighter,” she said.

“We are looking for effective ways to convey traditional culture to modern viewers,” said Wang Xuehua, the actor who plays You Liugui.

“It was surreal watching Peking Opera actors perform ghosts in hell while the puppeteers portrayed the scenes on earth. The story was so immersive that it sometimes became hard to tell which side was which,” said one viewer.

Produced in 2008 for the first time as part of the 2009 Croisements Festival, The Execution of the Judge of Hell has been touring abroad as an example of successful fusion theater.

National Theatre Company of China
7:30-9:30 pm, August 19 and 20
277 Guang’anmen Wai Dajie, Xicheng
80 yuan (presale)

Yang Xin

About Yang Xin

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Yang Xin is a '90s girl who is obsessed with music, tennis, reading and pretty boys. She hopes her life and career will take her around the world.

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