b. 1966, Beijing
The work of celebrated avant-garde director Meng Jinghui is integral to the renewed popularity of Huaju (spoken drama). Meng is a resident director of the National Theatre Company of China in Beijing. He is also artistic director of the independent PlayPlay Studio, a collaborative group organized in the mid 1990s.
Meng’s signature work, Si Fan, juxtaposed a traditional Ming dynasty kunshan opera with stories from Boccaccio’s Decameron, and caused a sensation in 1993. His adaptations of foreign and newly written Chinese plays include: The Balcony, Put Down Your Whip—Woyzeck, Gossip Street, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Rhinoceros in Love, Bootleg Faust and The Bedbug. Meng’s I Love XXX and Love Ants were produced, like all his plays, in connection with his work unit, the Central Experimental Theatre, but authorities ‘banned’ his controversial Comrade Ah Q, while still in rehearsal. Meng’s first feature film is Chicken Poets (Xiang jimao yiyang fei, 2002).
While exploring larger social issues and politically sensitive subjects, Meng’s productions are comedies infused with playful, animated energy, cajoling and provoking the audience. His style is characterized by a mix of politics and popular culture, and of dark and humorous elements. He juxtaposes disparate styles, periods and cultures, including classical references, current events and pop culture—TV, film and the latest slang. Recurrent elements include mime, dance, music, poetry and prose, a vignette structure with a chorus of actors playing multiple roles, improvisation and spontaneity, sound and movement rhythm games, vocal ‘sound parts’ and gibberish, a rock band and multi-media. The ‘Meng style’ is so popular that other directors imitate his unconventional techniques. Frequent collaborators are his wife, writer Liao Yimei, and musician Zhang Guangtian.