director Li Jianjun
dramaturg Zhang Weiyi
stage design Wang Renke
style design Wang Mao
lighting design Chen Xiaji
sound Leng Qiuxuan
production manager Xiao Jing
stage direction Zhang Xinyi
assistant director Yang Mingchen, Zhang Jiahuai
assistant stage design Zhang Yuanyuan, Yu Wenzhen
assistant dramaturg Jia Guoliang, Hong Tianyi
performer Gao Wenjun, Jiang Rihua, Li Xiuyi, Tang Ke, Wang Rui, Xiao Jing, Zhang Jiahuai, Zheng Di
production Inside-out Theater, New Youth Group, Wuzhen Festival
sponsor Arts center of Xixi Wetland
Duration 1h 45′
A Man Who Flies Up to the Sky is a piece of theatre work about ‘seeing’, which inspired by a Russian installation artwork “The Man Who Flew Into Space From His Apartment” by Ilya Kabakov.
During the 120 minutes of performance, it tells dozens of stories through dozens of pictures. The development of each character and the indistinct relationships between them internally hold the pictures together. The pre-set relationships between characters serve as theatrical structure, besides, the unique separation between image and sound requires each audience’s proactive involvement of mind to create ways of connection for the pictures and characters according to each observer’s private logic.
All the stories and characters are from real life, and all the set and props are made from ordinary materials. The overall image presents a detached and distilled everyday life, which not only allows the audiences to put themselves into context, but also stimulates them to think. Loneliness, ecstasies, numbness, dreams, love, sorrow, arguments, anxieties…. Everything on the stage resembles the tracks of daily life cycling on day after day.
The haste of China’s modernization and the power of China’s political system have continually shaped the collective psyche of the society. The unspeakable pressure and repulsiveness have been overwhelming, similar to how smog has lingered around the cities. It is impossible for those who have suffered to seek escape and safety. Pressure from the outside is converted into feelings of anxiety, hidden under a mass of triviality and endurance. Even the ephemeral twists of excitement and ecstasy could be nothing more than the compensation for anxiety and frustration.
This is the familiar daily experience of the contemporary Chinese. A Man Who Flies Up to the Sky displays a collage of the opposite of “flying up”: being bound, confined, and stifled.
42 theatrical moments depict the everyday life of a whole genealogy of women and men. These are the moments when people handle their basic needs for clothing, food, sex, physical comfort, shelter, and the moments when they make peace with their living, aging, sickly, and dying. There are 8 masked performers who play over 30 characters. All stage actions, from the most common everyday routines, to the most surreal movements, are completed and compressed in a limited space.
Sound plays an alternative narrative in the production. In every theatrical moment, the visual is separated from the auditory; hence the soundless visual spectacle is placed in sequence with the same moment with sound, but in darkness. As a result, characters are always in a state similar to those who are afflicted with “aphasia.”
Jianjun Li is an independent theatre director currently based in Beijing, China. He is also the artistic director of The New Youth Group. Graduated from The Central Academy Of Drama with MFA (and BA) in Stage Design, Li is recognised as one of the key directors/practitioners of Chinese avant-garde theatre. Li’s signature process involves reconsidering theatre as an artistic medium. Such distinguished aesthetics can be found in many of his contemporary productions. Li’s recent works received extensive discussion reflective cultural stand and aesthetic dimensions.
The New Youth Theatre Group
The New Youth Theatre Group was founded in 2010. Its name was specifically chosen to reflect the spirit of the 1915 New Culture Movement, which was inaugurated by The New Youth, an influential journal established by Peking University professor Chen Duxiu and contributed to by progressive intellectuals and students.
The New Youth Theatre Group is composed of Li Jianjun (director/artistic director), Zhuang Jiayun (playwright/dramaturge), Xiao Jing (production manager), Zhang Jiahuai, Yang Mingchen, Xia Maotian, and other members.