Hunchback of Notre-Dame
Classic French novel adapted into stage play for Chinese children
China Welfare Association Children’s Art Theater (CWACAT) recently adapted Notre-Dame de Paris, aka
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, a world-famous novel written by French writer Victor Hugo (1802 – 1885) in 1831, into a stage play to entertain and teach Chinese children foreign fairy tales.
It was announced by CWACAT on Tuesday that the play, still titled Notre-Dame de Paris, will premier in Shanghai on October 1 and be performed four times at the Malanhua Theater.
The production team shared their ideas and experiences about the play. Different from Hugo’s original version, which sighs over destiny and love, the new rendition aims to teach children how to distinguish beauty from ugliness and good from evil.
Playwright Du Cun and director Cai Jinping turned the original human characters into personified animals. Quasimodo, the hunchback, is now an ugly gorilla, Esmeralda is a beautiful lark and Frollo a devious vulture.
All the three characters will sing, with music designed to fit their personalities composed by Jin Fuzai. According to Jin, as the play is for children, the music will be joyous and easy to understand.
Suitable for kids
Stage and costume designs are in the hands of Sergey Lavor from Russia, who believes that animals represent human perceptions. In his mind, the lark stands for joy and happiness, the gorilla refers to courage and love and the vulture a combination of anger, evil, greed and jealousy.
The scenery for the play integrates multi-level spaces and divides the stage into several acting areas including a bridge, an underground palace, a cathedral and a bell tower, each endowed with different metaphors.
According to Lavor, the bridge is a life which can be destroyed by devious greed, the bell summons up courage and the palace provides protection. “When speaking of Notre-Dame
de Paris, people usually think about the magnificent cathedral in France or the tragic story of the hunchback,” said Cai, who explained that his rendition is quite different and more suitable for young audience.
(From top) Audience at the event; A woman asks a question to the organizers. Director Cai Jinping (middle) makes an introduction of the show. Posters of the play; (Left) Performers in rehearsal (Below) Stained glass of Notre-Dame de Paris