Curtain Rises on Prada

Selected looks from Prada’s Spring/Summer 2010 collection appear in a new play by experimental Chinese theatre director Meng Jinghui.

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Even in the early 1900s, fashion magazines reported about special designs worn on the stage by famous actresses or described their offstage preferences regarding fashion designers. Eleonora Duse was for example fond of Mariano Fortuny’s creations and once wrote to Jean-Philippe Worth stating that, without his help, the magic seemed to vanish from her characters. This special connection between the stage and fashion designers will be strengthened this summer as selected men and women’s looks from Prada’s Spring/Summer 2010 collection appear in a new play directed by Meng Jinghui, Love Utopia, co-written with his wife Liao Yimei.

Seventeen years have gone since Meng wrote and directed his first play, “Si Fan”, that caused a sensation in 1993 mixing a traditional Ming dynasty kunshan opera with stories from Boccaccio’s Decameron. Throughout these years Meng’s fame spread and he became one of the most innovative directors of alternative Chinese theatre, responsible for renewing the popularity or Huaju, or Chinese spoken drama.

Meng, who is also resident director of the National Theatre of China and founder of the Beijing Film Festival, is considered as an avant-garde director not only for the ideas and themes of his plays, but also for his storytelling techniques, the vivid language of his works, the use of electronic music, minimalist settings and light systems. An important aspect of his plays is the clever analysis of specific social and cultural issues – such as the transformations China went through in the last few years – themes that turned the works he wrote or directed, including I Love XXX, Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Liao Yimei’s Rhinoceros in Love and Shen Lin’s Bootleg Faust, an adaptation of the German classic transposed in modern China, into box office hits.

Characterised by an unconventional narrative technique that includes elements of mime and dance, Love Utopia tells the story of three women living in different times and places, but united by the same quest for the perfect romance. The main theme of the play allowed the director to focus on the transformations of love and on the contrasts between innocent and simple love stories from the past and more complicated romances from our times. These tensions are somehow reflected in Prada’s designs that mix retro prints with technological fabrics. “I like the sophisticated yet smooth free-flowing ambiance of the Prada collections, full of rich content and deep thoughts beneath the designs,” stated the directors. “The collections are expressed so well on stage, in motion, in dramatic conflicts.”

Meng conceives the stage as the perfect meeting place of different disciplines, from art and architecture to dance, music and literature. Adding fashion to the equation will definitely help the experimental director to push the boundaries and bring new and exciting changes in contemporary Chinese theatre.

Love Utopia will be staged in Shanghai until 25th July and will be on a tour of different Chinese provinces during summer.    



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