Beijing’s People’s Art Theatre

Nicholas Quirke was experiencing a sense of deja-vu on 18 May 2020 when, on China’s National Museum day he made his way to The Beijing People’s Art Theatre. Conceived in 1952 by four founding members Cao Yu, Jiao Juyin, Ouyang Shanzum and Zhongshan Qifang, with the ambitious goal of building a renowned, unique and profound theatre Company that aspired to the emulate the characteristics of The Moscow Arts Theatre. As Stanislavski envisioned they wanted a theatre based on truth and realism that was as far away from the overblown dramatics of the Peking Opera as could be imagined. With all the theatres still closed, a museum about a theatre was going to be as close to the experience right now and in celebration of Museum day he couldn’t think of a better place to be. It was a beautiful sunny day and there was no other way to dress than ‘Vegangster’ and his mood was up. Although it was situated close to Tiananmen Square he took a new route which directed him through the south of the square, though as preparations were in force for CCP conference, its was still closed and he had to take a detour up another street. He did not got lost he held his course and arrived safely at his destination, which, like the Moscow Art Theatre Museum was attached to the Theatre. Like all visitor attractions in Beijing, probably throughout China, he had to book in advance, so he was amused on showing his ticket, that they showed him a sheet of attendees and asked, “Is this you”, pointing to the sole western Lao Wei name amongst the sea of Chinese Characters. He was given his ticket and guide, and in addition a small blue notebook, resembling a passport, which noted that it had been published especially for 18 May 2020 to record National Museum day. He noted there was a film crew milling around To record the event of the reopening and felt certain that they had surreptitiously captured the Lao Wei. In many ways the material and the layout of the exhibits resembled that of the gallery in Moscow and even though it didn’t have the extensive history or the emotional impact on his psyche that MAT had, the overwhelming sense of artistic endeavour and the desire to break new ground and to formulate a new advance in performance was so potent that he felt quite choked by the experience. In addition, the theatres history was set against a background of The Cultural Revolution, when despite its revolutionary ideals the Theatre was closed and one of the founders, Jiao Juyin, whose intellectual rigour was the company’s driving force was vilified and forced to halt any artistic endeavour. Nicholas was pleased to note that a pardon was eventually granted, though he never practiced again. All the more sad when reading the philosophy that this engine of change espoused. “When the limits of drama in realism are broken, we will attain a plane that is more beautiful, more conceptive and more attracting’”. The body of the exhibition was around the productions that the company have performed over the years and in particular the stand out pieces from their initial repertoire; ‘Thunderstom’, ‘TeaHouse’, ‘Peking Man’ and many other that he had never heard of and had never, to his knowledge been seen in the UK. It was an inspiring and revealing experience and he felt privileged to have had the insight into an aspect of world theatre which had remained unseen (at least to his eye) for decades. He was certainly going to research further and hoped he would get a chance to see the company in action when the theatres reopened. After the greed of the weekend he had decided to have a 48 hour fast and avoided lunch but did stop to have tea at Teasure in the APM mall he had been to when he first escaped Quarantine. It was once again a thriving and busy mall and another indication that the stranglehold COVID19 had had on the business of daily life was seemingly fully in abeyance. His thoughts went to his family and friends in the UK and around the world and hooped that they would see this as an indication of the liberty they too would hopefully enjoy soon. He stopped at another mall to get some Coffee beans for Peng before heading to Joy City at Xidan and the Apple store to part with £300 to get his phone mended. To his relief the technician who looked at the phone and performed a full diagnostic on the apparatus advised that the only function that was damaged was Apple Pay and that although it was slightly bent the phone would perform well. The screen protector and case had prevented any internal or major structural harm. With his phone working and no expense he stopped at Uniqlo and bought a shirt to celebrate. He had had a nasty shock and the lesson was keep a tight hold of the phone and avoid tripping up. He would take a lesson in avoiding falling over in old age as suggested by Peta.on the site. Though there was some grumbling of his stomach he felt very little hunger pangs watching Peng eat his supper and it was a content and confident Nicholas that prepared for sleep.


  1. Nice to see you having a ‘theatre’ day, haven’t had one of those in a while xxx

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