Cafe Hopper @ 红楼梦 What is Sex? directed by 林奕华 Edward Lam

I would like to quote from the programme booklet, “This is not a theatre that gives you an account of the plot of Dream of the Red Chamber or 红楼梦. It consists of dreams by the characters in the story, as well as the dreams of modern man. These dreams date from Cao Xueqin’s time to 2015, perhaps even into the foreseeable future.” What Edward Lam attempts to portrait are the dreams that were dreamed about by the characters of Dream of the Red Chamber and he continue to see these dreams being dreamed about by modern man today. The dream to be loved and to love, the dream of materialism and secularism, the dream of what is real and what is unreal. What do we all have dream? We have dreams because there is always that deep void within us and this void longs to to be and be. There is this existential twist in Edward Lam’s interpretation of the Chinese classic. When we see the Others, we very often see our dreams fulfilled in them. Thus, in this case in Scene 2, we have a clash between Wang Xifeng and Ping-er. However, what Edward Lam wants to express is the lack in both characters and how they see each of their lack being fulfilled in each other. So is it Ping-er who dreams of Wanf Xifeng or Wang Xifeng who dreams of Ping-er?

There is also a scene, Scene 3 (Mayhem in School), that talks about our dream of an ideal education system. In the story, the Jia family set up their own school to educate the people whom they deemed suit for education. Eventually, in the drama, the whole education system crumbled into pieces and resulting in an education system that produces people who are materialistic and extremely pragmatic. Such is a tragic of our modern society. Our education is doing more harm to our mind than to build it up. We have developed a system of education that centers so much about self and we have lost touch of communal values.

So throughout the show, Edwards Lam uses the various key scenes from the Red Chamber to depict various aspects of human issues and crisis. The 大观园 is certainly not a place to find solution. It is a place where we see a reflection of ourselves and what is real. Very often, we what deem as real is unreal and simply a visage. Thus, through the interaction between the various characters, the subconscious mind of each individuals emerged and surfaced as a cruel reality they have to face. For instant, Scene 15, where You Sanjie fell in love with Liu Xianglian despite the improbability of a requited love. “In the end, Liu Xianglian is nothing but a mirage, and Sanjie’s suicide after the return of the betrothal gifts becomes a rude awakening.”

The fact of the matter is that there are many of such characters similar to those in the story in our lives. They are real and they exist among us…they stand helpless, confused, despaired, lost and certainly living in bad faith. They are so filled with angst of the reality of living. Thus, to many, their dreams remained unfulfilled and their dreams remain as dreams. There’s so much to say about Edward Lam’s depiction of the Chinese classics and and his attempt to answer the question of what is sex or to be precise what life is? Sex to Edward is not sexual. Sex is an integral part of life and thus to relook at sex is to relook at our life. The modern men and those in the characters of Red Chamber, focus too much on sexual rather than sex. Sexual is passive passion with no love. However, sex is the genuine demands for love.

If you have missed this interesting interpretation of  Red Chamber, I am sure you will have the chance to do it. To me, the depiction of each character has become a reflection of apart of myself. As an audience, I can see a little part of my dream and aspiration in each of the characters depicted. Its reflective and meditative.

Oh yah…I got a prosperity bag watching the show! Happy Chinese New Year to all my readers!





The Gatekeeper

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