A Chinese Play About Che Guevara

In Beijing Scene, a new play in Beijing tells the tale of someone largely unknown to the mainland Chinese, Che Guevara.

On April 12, a new experimental drama about the famous sultry-eyed, cigar-smoking revolutionary, appropriately titled Che Guevara, opened at the Beijing People’s Art Theater. Conceived by playwright Huang Jisu and performed by an eclectic group of actors, artists and musicians, this play is a revolution in its own right in the capital’s art scene.

Firstly, the group is putting on the production independently, without the official backing of an established theater company or the support of a work unit. Its 10 to 15 members represent a new generation of Chinese who are choosing to create unofficial networks, particularly in the arts, in response to the dwindling number of government-sponsored jobs and work units. Collectively, they refer to themselves as beipiao, or “Beijing drifters.” Consequently, it comes as little surprise that this rebel theatrical group has chosen one of the world’s most notorious drifters and non-conformists, Guevara, as the subject of its first production.

“Che was a totally free spirit,” says the play’s producer Yuan Hong, who produced most of director Meng Jinghui’s works, such as last year’s hugely successful Bootleg Faust “His life represented nomadic wandering and non-conformity, which many people in this society can relate to. He utterly refused to be forced to lead a fixed life. This was something Che always tried to resist.”