Africa's new partner in development, China, despite its new economic clout, faces the same dilemma that Africa has faced since coming into contact with Europe. This is what The Blue Dragon explores. It is a play in which Chinese artists try to find new ways to express their creativity, but much like their African counterparts, they find to their chagrin that what actually sells is simply a copy of what has been done before in the West, reports Beverly Andrews.
FOR MANY COUNTRIES IN AFRICA today, the presence of China is unmistakable. With Chinese investment in Africa growing rapidly and China set to overtake America in the near future as the world's dominant economic super power, China's current impact is hard to ignore. But as China's dominance grows throughout the world, it is rare to see contemporary Chinese life depicted in art. It is a shortcoming that the Canadian director, Robert Lepage, tries to correct in his latest play, The Blue Dragon.
In his startling new work, Lepage looks at the life of a Westerner living in China today, and through the eyes of this Westerner, he lets the world see the economic juggernaut that China has become hurtling to the future, albeit being forced to take very hard decisions about what it leaves behind.
The Blue Dragon is the sequel to Lepage's legendary second play, The Dragon's Trilogy, produced in the early 1980s, in which he looked at the impact Chinese migration was having on Canada's French-speaking province of Quebec.
Lepage says: "When we created The Dragon's Trilogy, none of us had ever been to China. Back then the Middle Kingdom was the 'great unknown', an ever-shifting mirror that allowed us to see and understand ourselves better. As we toured, this fascinating land - which until then we had explored only in our imaginations-opened itself to us, revealing its wonders, its ancient cultures and, of course, its contradictions and paradoxes.
"For years, Western countries wanted China to open its borders, to allow the free passage of people and goods, to get in step with the global market economy. Now that it has embraced profound change, we realise that China, the country we so longed to align with capitalism, now has the power to set its own agenda."
In the play, Lepage plays Pierre, a French-Canadian artist and gallery owner, who moves from his native Quebec to China where he hopes to start a new life. Feeling perhaps more secure in his new home than he has ever felt in Canada, he embarks on a...