Fengchao Theater is staging a production of Murder in the Hanging Garden, the most popular rock musical by Meng Jinghui, China’s leading avant-garde theater director.
Intending to addresses “the relentless grab for material goods and people’s spiritual loss,” the drama opens with a real estate tycoon’s mysterious disappearance.
When his Rolls-Royce is found hidden in a refuse treatment plant with blood stains, burnt paper, cat hair and wad of cash, police begin to suspect foul play.
His murder is seemingly confirm when the tycoon’s dismembered body parts start turning up in ATM machines throughout the city. Desperate for information about her late husband, the tycoon’s wife offers the reward of a hanging garden apartment for anyone who can provide a significant lead.
Amazingly, three “killers” come forward to confess to the crime in hopes of winning the grand prize.
In the end, it turns out that the “victim” was not even dead.
“Each one of the killers makes up his own story, but when you put them together they read like a struggle of the society’s poor, its weak and its losers,” said Shi Hang, the playwright.
Murder in the Hanging Garden features suspense, satire and black humor. “Love is actually similar to death. They are both the grandest and the smallest events on the earth. Human beings can hardly prepare themselves to confront them,” said theater critic Lin Weiran.
Live music breathes an amazing energy into the musical, changing its dynamic and turning rational dialogue into expressive lyrics.
“Rock is an attitude and rock musicals have some things in common. Each starts with surrealism but ends in critical realism. That’s how the rock element evolves,” Shi said. “If you consider Meng’s previous work as storyteller, Murder in the Hanging Garden is an ‘accident’ expressed in music.”
The musical has been highly praised since its premiere five years ago. It has been performed more than 400 times across the country and was awarded for Best Original Musical in 2009.
Shi Hang said the drama is unique in its ability to absorb and regurgitate local sentiment. “Even though it has been staged numerous times, each performance is distinctive in reflecting the feelings of its time and place,” Shi said.
Through September 28
3 Xinzhong Jie, Dongzhimen Wai Dajie, Dongcheng