Nanjing Scenes: June 2016

Scenes from the Nanjing intergenerational workshop and performance, 26 June 2016.

Scene 1 - Good Buy

Six young people imagined the past, present and future of a machine called ‘good buy’. In the 1960s, the machine is a small grocery shop. The owner of this shop treats his customers differently, offering better quality products to people of high social status while treating others rudely. In the present, ‘good buy’ is a machine which lets people buy everything via QR codes and virtual payment methods with automatic delivery. Thirty years from now, ‘good buy’ is a virtual reality device which provides a convenient shopping experience and personalised services. However, people have become more and more materialistic and addicted to shopping.

Scene 2 - No ending

This scene, performed by four young people, criticises a growing desire for shopping in recent years, in particular how people buy things and then put them aside. Because people often ignore what they have, they tend to buy more. This process of ‘purchase – putting aside (ignorance) – storage – purchase’ thereby becomes a vicious cycle. The performers suggest that when we buy things we should consider the value of them, promoting a rational and sustainable consumer culture.

Scene 3 - The Changing Lives of Middle-age Women

A group of four young women considered the ways in which life has hanged for women across the generations and will change for them as they reach middle age. The scene begins in the 1980s, when most middle-age women were housewives whose lives were restricted in domestic spaces. In the present, because of the rise of women’s social status, more middle-age women have their own leisure time and take part in public activities. The young women imagine themselves in 2030 as a group of fashionable, globalised middle-age women, with more opportunities to express themselves in the public sphere, and retaining the freedoms that they have enjoyed growing up.

Scene 4 - Super Shop

With this scene, the middle-age group wanted to show the negative influence of overconsumption. They created a ‘super shop’ to represent how people are trapped by their desires. The super shop is a place that can provide everything to everyone. Once people find this machine, they tend to buy whatever they want from it without restraint. The shopping process seems never-ending: people want more things when their old desires are fulfilled. These greedy people are finally killed by the their material desires and the super shop is destroyed. At the end of the scene the stage is occupied by dead bodies, a broken shop and consumer waste.

Scene 5 - Plant More Trees!

Participants from the younger and middle-age groups discussed and acted out ‘angels’ (good things) and ‘devils’ (bad things) in the urban environment, and how to drive devils away through angels’ powers. For the final performance, they transformed this ‘angel and devil’ play into a scene about the value of trees against urban devils like water and air pollution, smog, rubbish, and dead plants. The angel tree fights these ‘devils’ on stage. However, she is exhausted after driving the devils away and dies in the end. Then, both the angel and devils stand up and say “Build the road if you want to get rich! Have less children and plant more trees!”

Scene 6 - The Happy Four

A group of four older people performed a shadow play about the changing urban environment in Nanjing. In this scene Nanjing is presented a special place, full of historical sites, mountains and lakes. However, because of urban development, many old houses are destroyed and replaced by skyscrapers. The performers argue that Nanjing has lost its character and become like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and other big cities in China. Moreover, air quality has declined, rivers are polluted, and every street is crowded. At the end of the play, they suggest that people protect their living environment by driving less, avoiding littering and spitting, and planting more trees. Because Nanjing is home for every local person, everyone is responsible for protecting it.

Scene 7 - Homeland

This shadow play by five older women is also about protecting the urban environment. The narrator says that she misses her happy childhood. She misses the green mountains, clean rivers, the blue sky and white clouds. Recently the sky is always smoggy; many people wear a mask; the smiling faces are gone. Polluted water permeates into the soil. The earth is being destroyed. Then, the performers show some solutions to recover the urban environment in our daily life, such as composting kitchen waste to make organic fertiliser. At the end of the play, the performers read an ancient Chinese poem to express their view of saving food: “At noontide the peasants weed the fields of crops. Their sweat drops into the soil. Look at the food in your bowls and plates, who can ever know, how all the grains grow from peasants’ hard work?”

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