Saturday, October 18, 2008

"The Little Prince" in a Chinese production, in Beijing.

Xavier Froment is a French stage director who came to Beijing seven years ago and made it his base for making theatre, in Chinese, for Chinese spectators.

Cases of foreigners coming to Beijing and establishing themselves to do the same thing as Xavier has these seven years are few. Many come to study, Beijing Opera in particular, but they soon go back to their countries. There is only one foreigner, and his is a very special case: Ghaffar Pourazar, a British citizen of Iranian origin, who came to study Beijing Opera and established himself in the city, and he is still working as any other Chinese traditional theatre player; even more so, he is an important figure at some of the main Beijing Opera companies in China.

In general, in Beijing, we find some English speaking directors, having fun (or money) with some theatrical productions for expatriates or Classical Western plays for Chinese people; there are very few cases of other languages or nationalities; but nobody, absolutely, like Xavier Froment.

Xavier is living his life in Beijing and earns his money by doing theatre and selling his productions to anyone who wants to pay for them. His company, 三枝橘制作 Théâtre des trois oranges, produces, since 2003, plays by Chinese as well as by French writers, but all in Chinese and addressed to Chinese public. The company has a group of actors coming from different Chinese acting schools but most of them educated in what is called "Huaju" or Spoken Theatre, Western Theatre. Every production is usually performed between 4 and 5 times for season, as is common in China.

At the beginning of September I received Xavier's invitation for the premier of "小王子" "Le Petit Prince". Being one of the most universally known French texts the simple idea of listening to it in Chinese was kind of morbid. It was also the first time I could observe Xavier's work, so my curiosity had some professional level.

The Little Prince was adapted (remember that it is a short novel) to theatre as a monologue, so no evident characters are displayed on stage and the whole group of dialogues is played by one actor alone, Gen Shaoye. That singularity of the performance made it more difficult for me to get a total comprehension of the text. I decided then to listen to the rhythm and to the musicality we all remember well of Saint-Exupéry's words, but that idea brought another problem: the Chinese language has a special musicality, its 4 different tones give it its own immanent music, so no simile with French pronunciation at all... I'd rather not talk more about what I listened to there and leave it to your own experience listening to the video.

The image of the spectacle, in contrast, fluctuated between gray and colourful moments, between light and shadows; at some moments I saw mythic dreams on stage: one big elastic piece of cloth worked like that famous coat Saint-Exupéry drew for his main character, but it also was the snake's body, and worked as the sky on Earth itself. Those images are now in my memory and I think they will be there for long time.

Théâtre des Trois Oranges is working on a new production (for the end of October, 2008); they invited me again and this time I will have the opportunity of seeing some rehearsals also, so I hope my comprehension after the premier will be a little bit more extensive.


  1. Hola!
    My name is Paulino and I am a performer from Argentina living in USA.
    I've done a few one man shows and I am looking into doing a new one.
    The Little Prince has always been my favorite book and I am exploring the idea of doing a one man show with it.
    I assume the text of this play is not available in English (or Spanish). But would you be able to tell me more about it?
    if you want to contact directly please email to

    Gracias! Thanks!


  2. Paulino, the text used in this performance is of course in Chinese, but written by a French director, so it is possible to get more information about it if you contact Xavier Froment. A search in google could heading you to his mail. Good luck.


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