China to Bring Das Kapital to Life on Beijing Stage

He Nian, a theater director in China, is convinced that he can turn Karl Marx’s treatise Das Kapital into popular entertainment, in a stage musical that will, “unite elements from Broadway musicals and Las Vegas shows in a hip, interesting and educational play featuring a live band, singing and dancing.” From The Guardian:

The director said the play, which is to open next year, will be set in a company and will document the progress of its workers. In the first half they realise their boss is exploiting them and begin to understand the theory of surplus value. But far from uniting, as Marx enjoined them in the Communist Manifesto, some continue to work as before, some mutiny and others employ collective bargaining.

Yang Shaolin, the general manager of the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre, said that in the past it would have been difficult to imagine Das Kapital adapted into a play with “main characters, major dramatic elements, and profound educational meaning”, but that it was now possible thanks to the flourishing of different styles in Chinese theatre.

Even so, the producers face a tough challenge. True, the social criticism of Marx’s 19th century contemporaries Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo has been transmuted into two hugely successful all-singing, all-dancing musicals – Oliver! and Les Miserables. But unlike the novels on which those were based, Das Kapital has never been noted for its vivid characterisation or gripping plot.


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