Brecht and China : a mutual response
This thesis deals with the cross-cultural relations between Brecht and China through an analysis of how Brecht responded to the traditional Chinese theatre and how his drama was received in turn by modern Chinese theatre. It attempts to examine the respective socio-cultural or political contexts wherein such kind of crosscultural contacts were needed, and the consequent aesthetic-theatrical as well as socio-cultural or political changes brought about by these contacts that have produced two distinctively independent yet related forms of theatre. It is argued that Brecht's search for a theatre style of his own amidst the sociocultural as well as political crises between the two world wars made him look to the East for inspirations, and his direct encounter with Mei Lanfang enabled him to interpret the latter's acting in such a way that he responded to it with his postulation of the alienation effect and modification of a gestic performance style. His repudiation of the well-made dramatic theatre brought his epic theatre closer to the traditional Chinese theatre whose aesthetic principles he shared in constructing a non- Aristotelian episodic form of drama. In his experimentations with new modes of theatrical expressions, he did not simply borrow or copy the forms and content of classical Chinese drama; he appropriated, transformed and renewed them, for example, in The Caucasian Chalk Circle, for the particular purpose of instructing audiences in a scientific age. China! s reception of Brecht has had much to do with the country's changing socio-cultural as well as political situations. Chinese theatre practitioners responded to him because he was a politically, culturally and aesthetically suitable figure. His epic drama provided an alternative style for the Chinese in their attempt to innovate their realist spoken drama imported from the West, and was also introduced into local forms of performing arts in hope that the traditional Chinese theatre could be resurrected. Furthermore, he prompted Huang Zuolin to theoretically re-examine Chinese operas, which the latter integrated with techniques of Brecht and Stanislavsky into spoken drama to establish a new theatre style called Xieyi drama.