Style, experimentation and Jingju (Beijing Opera) as a decentered multiplicity
Thorpe, A. (2011) Style, experimentation and Jingju (Beijing Opera) as a decentered multiplicity. Studies in Theatre & Performance, 31 (3). pp. 275-291. ISSN 2040-0616
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Jingju (Beijing Opera) is widely considered to be a fundamentally non-naturalistic practice that became known in the West after it caught the attention of western practitioners in 1935 following Mei Lanfang’s performance in Moscow. Given the implication that its importance is largely historical, some non-specialists have implied that Jingju has little relevance to contemporary modes of thinking, particularly the multiplicities of experience as outlined by philosophers such as Deleuze and Guattari. This article seeks to demonstrate the multiplicity of Jingju for a wider readership through both a historical analysis and a deconstruction of the form. It will show how, at the same time that Mei Lanfang was providing a ‘non-realistic’ model for western practitioners eager to displace the dominance of naturalism, realistic settings were becoming an integral part of Jingju performances in Shanghai. The article also engages with the various acting pai/styles that weave Jingju into a complex, multiple form. The article demonstrates how Deleuzian models actually facilitate a greater understanding of Jingju.