Today I recommend you a very entertaining play, at least I liked it very much.
On 7th October in Chang’an Theater Zhu Qiang, Chen Junjie, Dou Xiaoxuan debuted in a Ma school classic, 《火牛阵》Huo Niu Zhen, Fire Bull Attack. This was the closing performance of the National Day Golden Week season in Beijing. Li Hongtu still has sore throat so a young xiaosheng substituted him, Zhang Jing 张琎 – frankly speaking, he looks better in the role of a young prince. :P
This is a story from the Warring States period. King Min of Qi, played by a chou character, is a “notoriously unsuccessful” king, preferring wine and sex to politics and government affairs. His pampered concubine, called Zou, and court eunuch Yin Li falsely accuse the crown prince, Tian Fazhang of molesting Concubine Zou. The king orders the execution of his son, who gets warned by a servant maid and escapes the palace during the night.
Luckily he meets Tian Dan, who is on night patrol, recognizes the prince and hides him at his residence. Meanwhile Yin Li and his soldiers search for the prince everywhere, and eventually arrive to the Tian residence. Tian Dan quickly disguises the prince as his younger sister. Yin Li falls for the trick and leaves. During the night, Tian Dan and the crown prince disguise themselves as brother and sister who are on their way to the nearby temple to burn incense sticks. With some trick and treat, they manage to get through the city gate and the two gatekeepers.
As they flee, they arrive to Jimo, run into military chaos and break away from each other. The state of Qi already lost seventy cities to the State of Yan, King Min and Concubine Zou flee in miserable clothes. Yin Li, also Concubine Zou are killed in battle, the king is captured and hanged on a bamboo pole as a punishment for his decadent behavior. One of his followers, Wang Sungu comes to the rescue, but it’s too late, King Min is already dead.
Meanwhile, Tian Fazhang gets refuge in the home of a retired governor, Yan Shang. The crown prince finds himself in an awkward situation when he gets accommodated in the quarters of Yan’s beautiful daughter, Hui’e. Hui’e and her maid quickly find out that the clumsy miss is a handsome boy, so Fazhang has to confess. Hui’e and the crown prince privately get engaged.
Thanks to Tian Dan’s tricky plan, the “fire bull attack”, Qi wipes out the enemy from Jimo and later regaines all the lost territories. They collect several hundred oxes and bulls, tie daggers to their ears and straw to their tails, then set the straw on fire. Poor animals run to the enemy camp and the Yan army flees in panic.
Yan Shang informs “Miss Tian” about the good news, and makes arrangements to return the crown prince to Tian Dan. Yan Hui’e is worried that she has to part with Tian Fazhang, but he assures the girl that he won’t forget her. Yan Shang gets confused when Tian Dan kneels down before “his sister”, but soon he gets to know that the “girl” he was hiding so far is actually the new king of Qi. Naturally he’s worried about his daughter, and gets relieved when hears about the engagement. A royal wedding is ahead, Qi regained all the lost cities, happy end! (For now.)
Here you can watch the “lipsynched” version of a 1954 performance: http://www.56.com/u71/v_
LOTS of stage photos of the recent performance can be found here: http://bbs.cntv.cn/thread-26666689-1-1.html
The original play is more than three hours long, this version was shorter, I don’t know which parts were omitted, but the cattle of Tian Dan surely deserve a Best Animal Costume Award, although apparently the last cow lost his pants: