Sat, Apr 13, 2019 - Page 6 News List

‘Trump’ raises red flag in Cantonese opera


Actress Man Chan, right, dressed as Ivanka Trump, helps actor Loong Koon-tin, center, change into US President Donald Trump backstage at a rehearsal of Trump on Show at the Sunbeam Theatre in Hong Kong on Thursday.

Photo: AFP

One hundred flowers bloom, 100 schools of thought contend: US President Donald Trump has a long-lost Chinese friend.

Dressed in a black suit, an unmistakable blond wig and an extra-long red tie, “Trump” is leading a Cantonese opera troupe during a rehearsal in Hong Kong.

In the absurdist drama dubbed Trump on Show (粵劇特朗普), audiences watch a mishmash of current and imagined events, including the US president’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

A 26-year-old Trump also looks for his twin brother, “Chuan Pu” (川普), a transliteration of his name in Chinese, during a fantastical trip to China alongside former US president Richard Nixon, who plays table tennis with Mao Zedong (毛澤東).

It begins with the first family moving into the White House.

Ivanka Trump finds Mao’s “Little Red Book” — a collection of the late communist leader’s quotes and ideology — full of her father’s handwritten notes, triggering a flashback to Nixon’s famous diplomatic tour of China in 1972.

The sold-out show opened yesterday and runs for four days at the Sunbeam Theatre, Hong Kong’s famous Cantonese opera house.

The centuries-old art form usually features ancient Chinese stories and legends, but the latest show gives the genre a modern twist.

“Donald Trump is the most topical person in the world, while Cantonese opera is a forgotten and waning art form. If we can write about him in a play, it will definitely help attract people’s attention to the culture of Cantonese opera,” said Edward Li (李居明), the opera’s playwright.

Li believes the tweeter-in-chief’s fame will rescue the traditional musical theater.

Mao and Trump share similar traits, namely narcissism, Li said.

“Seventy-two-year-old Mao Zedong started the Cultural Revolution. Seventy-two-year-old Donald Trump is also creating a US cultural revolution. What’s a cultural revolution? That’s when one person overturns all the political systems,” Li told reporters.

The feng shui master-turned-playwright revealed that he rewrote the script at least 10 times to keep it fresh.

A US-China trade dispute and the controversial arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟) were both worked into the plot.

The story also pokes fun at the leaders — Trump orders take-out every day and drinks 12 bottles of Coca-Cola, while Kim knows how to make Swiss cheese fondue.

Trump is played by Loong Koon-tin (龍貫天), who also handles the roles of Mao and Trump’s fictional Chinese twin brother.

Backstage, “Ivanka” helped her father with makeup and hairstyling. Within 15 minutes, “Mao” was transformed into “Trump.”

“The division of different characters is a challenge. You have to let them [the audience] know who you’re playing when you appear on stage,” Loong said.

Li released Chairman Mao three years ago, the first installation of his Mao trilogy.

After Trump on Show, the second play, he plans to conclude the series with a story about Mao and former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平).

He said that he has big ambitions for the Trump opera.

“My future goal is to perform in front of Trump and have Trump applaud,” Li said.

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