Economy,  International

Das Kapital!: the musical

The Telegraph reports on plans to stage musical version of Karl Marx’s “Das Kapital” in China.

Normally disdained by revolutionaries as a bourgeois art form, the show’s producers insist that in the confident, modern-day People’s Republic, opera is a novel way to explain the proletariat’s triumph in the class struggle.

“The particular performance style we choose is not important, but Marx’s theories cannot be distorted,” said director He Nian, in an interview with China’s Wen Hui Bao newspaper.

Mr He, who is best known for a stage adaptation of a martial-arts spoof, plans to open the production in Shanghai next year, and will borrow elements from Broadway musicals and Las Vegas shows. There will, however, be no trivialisation of the book’s core messages: an economist from a local university has been asked to ensure that it remains intellectually respecful of Marxist doctrine.

Phew! That’s a relief.

To that end, audiences can expect a storyline that appears to be only marginally racier than the original Das Kapital, a dense, 1,000 page tract which has traditionally tested the commitment of even the most ardent Communist reader.

The opera’s plot will involve a business where workers begin to realise their boss is exploiting them. They then embrace the Marxist theory of surplus value. Far from uniting to overthrow the established order, though, some of the chorus line mutiny, others continue as they are, while some engage in collective bargaining. Mr He insists it will be “fun to watch”.

I don’t know who the audience will be for this show. China’s bourgeoisie is unlikely to be interested, and the proletariat probably won’t be able to afford tickets, even if they wanted to see it.

I wonder if the show will dare to acknowledge that in recent years, China itself has been the scene of perhaps the world’s most violent and dynamic class struggle. And that started before the recent economic collapse, which has cost millions of Chinese workers their jobs.

A non-musical play based on “Das Kapital” has previously been staged, in which a “number of experts are brought onstage for a debate in an ironic key in order to humanize an ultra-politicized topic.”

As Kathy Griffin said in a Seinfeld episode: Snoozers!

So do any of our creative readers have ideas for songs, dances and other onstage interpretations of Marx’s masterwork? Should a singing Marx be the narrator, as Che was in “Evita”?

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