'Trump' raises red flag in Hong Kong opera

AFP . Hong Kong | Update:

Actress Man Chan (R), dressed as Ivanka Trump, helps actor Loong Koon-tin (C), changes into US President Donald Trump back stage during a rehearsal of a Cantonese opera called `Trump on Show` in Hong Kong on 11 April 2019. Photo: AFPA hundred flowers bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend: Donald J. Trump has a long-lost Chinese friend.

Dressed in a black suit, an unmistakable blonde wig and an extra-long red tie, "Trump" is leading a Cantonese opera troupe during a rehearsal in Hong Kong.

In this absurdist drama dubbed "Trump on Show", audiences watch a mish-mash of current and imagined events including the US president's meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

A 26-year-old Trump also looks for his twin brother "Chuan Pu", a transliteration of his name in Chinese, during a fantastical trip to China alongside former American president Richard Nixon, who plays ping-pong with Mao Zedong.

It begins with the current first family moving into the White House.

Ivanka Trump finds Mao's "Little Red Book" -- a collection of the late communist leader's quotes and ideology -- full of her father's handwritten notes, triggering a flashback to Nixon's famous diplomatic tour of China in 1972.

The sold-out show opens Friday and runs for four days at the Sunbeam Theatre, Hong Kong's famous Cantonese opera house.

The centuries-old art form usually features ancient Chinese stories and legends, but the latest show gives the genre a modern twist.

- Narcissistic characters -
"Donald Trump is the most topical person in the world, while Cantonese opera is a forgotten and waning art form. If we can write about him in a play, it will definitely help attract people's attention to the culture of Cantonese opera," said Edward Li, the opera's playwright.

He believes the tweeter-in-chief's fame will rescue the traditional musical theatre.

Li said Mao and Trump share similar traits, namely narcissism.

"Seventy-two-year-old Mao Zedong started the Cultural Revolution. Seventy-two-year-old Donald Trump is also creating a US cultural revolution. What's a cultural revolution? That's when one person overturns all the political systems," Li told AFP.

The feng shui master-turned-playwright revealed he rewrote the script at least 10 times to keep it fresh.

The US-China trade war and the controversial arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou were both worked into the plot.

The story also pokes fun at the leaders -- Trump orders take-out every day and drinks 12 bottles of Coke, while Kim knows how to make Swiss cheese fondue.

Trump is played by Loong Koon-tin, who also handles the roles of Mao and Trump's fictional Chinese twin brother.

Backstage, "Ivanka" helped her father with make-up and hairstyling. Within 15 minutes, "Mao" was transformed into "Trump".

"The division of different characters is a challenge. You have to let them (the audience) know who you're playing when you appear on stage," said Loong.

Li released "Chairman Mao" three years ago, the first installation of his Mao trilogy.

After Trump, the second play, he plans to conclude the series with a story about Mao and Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.

He said he has big ambitions for the Trump opera.

"My future goal is to perform in front of Trump and have Trump applaud."

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