Amongst a forest of plastic trees, three girls dressed as pandas sit around a circular table. Cards are continually slapped down and swept back up in an animated game of Do Di Zhu (Fight the Landlord). Soon enough though, gameplay turns to gossip and the girls begin discussing partners, property and politics.
Born of the musings of Gavin Quinn, Sun Yue and Zhaohui Wang during the Shanghai Expo, Fight the Landlord marks the second collaboration between Irish company Pan Pan and Beijing’s Square Moon Culture Company.
It is a unique collaboration, but hardly an unexpected venture for either company. Both Pan Pan and Square Moon pride themselves on theatrical innovation and international co-production.
Do Di Zhu, the card game upon which the play is based, is representative of the class struggle and inequity of China’s Cultural Revolution. This original context has been all but forgotten by the game’s modern day players. However, the play Fight the Landlord sparks renewed discussion about these themes and a variety of other issues that are significant to contemporary China.
“The show is about what the Chinese worry about the most,” said Zhaohui Wang, producer of Fight the Landlord.
“We don’t really think the rest of the world would be interested in it, but these issues of everyday life really affect everyone and it is an interesting reflection on reality.”
The show’s previous success is a testament to its cross-cultural appeal. It has a clear universal relevance, confronting issues like sexuality, love and art.
Performed in the round on the stage of Her Majesty’s Theatre, the production is an immersive experience in which the audience is invited to observe the action whilst sitting amongst the actors.
“The audience begins to feel part of the show, but they [the actors] are not really communicating with them – it’s a very different experience,” said Wang.
The production begins an Australian tour at the OzAsia Festival in Adelaide, followed by stints in Brisbane and Sydney.
Fight The Landlord
Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre, Brisbane Festival and Carriageworks
Directed by Gavin Quinn
Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide
Opening Date: 17 September
Closing Date: 18 September