09 May Ed Blog 1 | The Dreamer | Shanghai’s Marriage Market
As the team head back out to Shanghai to re-work The Dreamer, Rich reflects on one of the most influential moments of last year, and how that impacted on the creation of the show. The Dreamer is Gecko’s first ever international co-production (with Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre) and was created in 2016 as part of the British Council’s Shakespeare Lives programme.
This is the first in a series of blogs in the run up to The Dreamer coming to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2017. So stay tuned to follow the shows journey from Shanghai to Edinburgh!
“We were in the middle of devising a show, which focuses on Helena from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I found myself stood in a beautiful park, in the middle of a very modern city, surrounded by thousands of people desperate to find love.
That sunny day in the park changed everything, not only with regards to the show, but also how I thought about relationships. In China, they have a derogatory term for women in their late 20s who are not yet married… they are referred to as ‘Left Over’.
Being in the market itself is pretty much just a surreal walk through a very beautiful park, but at the same time it’s a bit like being inside a live-action-super-analogue version of Tinder. The main difference being that it’s the parents of single people who have set up a large proportion of the ‘profiles’, not singles themselves. Often the people who are on ‘offer’ don’t know that their parents have made a profile for them in the park.
If you haven’t heard about this unusual form of matchmaking, this video, which is doing the rounds on Facebook pretty much sums the place up. (Despite obviously being an advert, it does have a interesting message). The markets happen all over china, several times a week in some places, and they are really popular. You can walk for about 20 minutes through the market in Shanghai and still be in the market. It’s big. I tried to take some photos and interview some of the ‘agents’ who negotiate the ‘matches’ but every time I got my camera out, people covered their faces and told me to stop filming.
This video is a really positive attempt to break down the idea of ‘Left Overs’ and, on the whole, women in china found the market a strange place. Performers who took me to the park found the experience very uncomfortable. It’s obviously not for everyone, but it’s clearly a known way to date in Shanghai.
Making The Dreamer in Shanghai was really fascinating for so many reasons, but the day I visited this place, was the day I could see how a 400 year old character (Helena, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream) might find love in Shanghai in 2017.”