In 2016, China’s One Child Policy officially ended after a reign of nearly 40 years. To mark the close of an era, Malthouse Theatre is teaming up with award-winning Australian writer Lachlan Philpott and one of Beijing’s most innovative young directors, Wang Chong, to explore the stories, struggles and aspirations of the children of this radical political experiment.
Set in Melbourne and Beijing, and weaving between Mandarin and English, the world premiere of Little Emperors is the story of a sister, her illegal brother and how a generation of children is shaping the culture of the world’s next superpower.
Little Emperor Syndrome is a term used to describe the behavioural time bomb created by China’s One Child Policy. Introduced in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution as a way of curbing population growth, an entire generation was raised without brothers and sisters. Pampered, entitled, and bucking against China’s proud tradition of filial piety, these golden children were born to a globalised future, shouldering the weight of their parents’ expectations.
Directing Little Emperors is an embarrassing experience,” says Director Wang Chong. “It’s embarrassing not because they put my handsome photo on the poster, but because I found myself on every page in the play, exposed completely. This play must be embarrassing for millions of Chinese children born during the One Child Policy, as the family drama is a magnifying glass to look at the whole generation.”
“Facing one’s self is never easy. Changing one’s self is much more challenging. Are the characters wise and brave enough to change? Am I? The One Child Policy officially ended in 2016. It’s the crucial moment to look back and look beyond.”
Wang Chong is a highly acclaimed, experimental theatre maker, known for his exploration of politically subversive ideas in China and abroad. Founder of the world-renowned Théâtre du Rêve Expérimental, Chong’s work is characterised by radical interpretations of classic Western plays and the use of cutting edge digital technology. Hi work includes: Thunderstorm 2.0, Ibsen in One Take, and The Flowers on the Sea 2.0.
Little Emperors is Lachlan Philpott’s first play at Malthouse Theatre. His other plays include Bison, Bustown, Colder [R.E Ross Trust Award], Lake Disappointment, M.ROCK, promiscuous/cites, Silent Disco [Winner Griffin Award for Outstanding New Australian play, Winner GAP Competition Aurora Theatre Co. USA, Winner best stage play, Australian Writers Guild Awards] Truck Stop [Winner best play, young audiences Australian Writer’s Guild Awards] and The Trouble with Harry.
Philpott was the inaugural Australian Professional Playwright Fulbright Scholar and Chair of the Australian Writer’s Guild Playwrights’ Committee between 2012 and 2015. His work is published by Currency and PlayLab in Australia and Oberon in the UK, and is currently in residence at Cite des Artes Internationale Paris.
Director: Wang Chong Featuring: Diana (Xiojie) Lin, Liam Maguire, Alice Qin, Yuchen Wang Dramaturgy: Mark Pritchard Set & Costume Design: Romanie Harper Lighting Design & AV Consultant: Emma Valente Sound Design: James Paul AV Programmer: Andre Vanderwert Stage Manager: Harriet Gregory Assistant Stage Manager: Matilda Woodroofe Script Translation: Hongyi Tian Surtitles: Felix Ching Ching Ho Writer: Lachlan Philpott
Beckett Theatre – The Coopers Malthouse, Sturt Street, Southbank
Season: 14 – 26 February 2017 (previews: 10 – 13 February)
Information and Bookings: www.malthousetheatre.com.au
Image: Wang Chong – courtesy of Zan Wimberley