China's Central Experimental Theatre first staged the Canadian drama The Monument on October 28, 2000, in Beijing. It was the first Canadian drama to be produced in China and performed in Chinese. Set in an unnamed country in the wake of an unnamed conflict, the play unfolds to the audience a seemingly simple story. A young soldier, Stetko, has confessed to raping and murdering 23 "enemy" women and girls, acts he claims to have committed only because it was expected of the soldiers at the time. Just as he is about to be executed, a woman named Mejra appears, the mother of one of his victims--a woman who might be his tormentor, his executioner, or his savior: he will be allowed to live on the condition that he obey her every command. Mejra then carries out a confounding revenge. In a desperate scheme to undermine Stetko's will, she chains and beats Stetko and torments him with horrible stories of his girlfriend's possible gang rape and murder. Eventually, Mejra orders him to dig up the corpses of the 23 women he killed, stacking them into a monument to their memory. This is a journey--or rather, a trying pilgrimage--for both characters. As it unfolds, they discover not only unpleasant truths about themselves, but also truths about human nature that they wish could have remained buried beneath the scorched earth of war.
Canadian playwright Colleen Wagner, inspired by the war in Bosnia and its cruel aftermath, wrote The Monument as an examination of crime and redemption, a dark fantasy about war and human nature under extreme circumstances. The play poses to audiences, Canadian and Chinese alike, timeless questions that try our soul: To what extent does a soldier have moral choices in wartime? Can murder, rape, and other atrocities be justified under wartime circumstances? Can there be a so-called war of justice or injustice (zhengyi zhanzheng / [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of fei zhengyi zhanzheng / [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])? Must a soldier follow orders? And what is left for the mother of the victim--vengeance, forgiveness, or ...? What can be said about human nature--sinful (according to Christianity) or benevolent (in Confucian terms)? Which force is greater, love or hate, redemption or damnation? Part myth, part ritual, part rite of passage, The Monument explores the darkness in human nature and ultimately chooses redemption and the healing power of love. Wagner's cruelly truthful drama demands the attention of both Chinese audiences and Chinese dramatists, challenges mercilessly the playfulness and lack of universality in recent Chinese dramas, and leads Chinese dramatists to reexamine the meaning, value, and nature of drama in general and modern Chinese drama in particular in the global context.
China's open-door cultural policy, first implemented in the 1970s and early 1980s, has attracted a large number of Western plays to the Chinese stage. Through these performances, Chinese audiences become closer to Western dramatic theories and practices, in a time when China is in close contact with the rest of the world in matters economic and political as well as cultural. Shouyi Fan observed the far-reaching impact of translated literature on the development of Chinese literature, arguing that it broadens the vision of China's writers and offers up-to-date information about the state of world literature. As a result of that impact, Chinese writers have studied diverse literary trends and adopted diverse literary techniques. Shouyi Fan concluded:
Above all, the importation of Western literature into China had helped
shape the ideology of the Chinese intellectual community. Many of the
famous men of letters in China's modern history began to be exposed to
works of translation. In the process, their modes of thinking began to
change, they perceived the world from new angles, and found themselves
caught in the clashes between the East and West. (1)
During the 1980s, an increasing number of Canadian literary works began to be introduced to Chinese readers through translation. …