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522Comparative Drama ious materials involved in the manufacture of fireworks. This is essential and very interesting reading for anyone who wants to understand the use of fireworks. The Bibliography is of necessity very full, and provides the reader with many directions in which to explore the subject. Cross-referencing and illustrations, as mentioned earlier, are both useful and well done. My only reservation about it is that there are a small number of typographical and proofing errors, which, occurring as they do in the standard text, raise some anxiety about the text of the documents. As this book could well become a standard reference work on theatrical fireworks , it is to be hoped that these errors will be corrected in a future edition. This is a book that I am already recommending to postgraduate and even undergraduate students, and the reports that I have received back from the students are enthusiastic. ELIZABETH M. S. BALDWIN School ofEnglish/Centrefor Medieval Studies, University ofLeeds Jo Riley. Chinese Theatre and the Actor in Performance. Cambridge Studies in Modem Theatre Series. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Pp. xii + 348. $64.95. Riley's aim in writing this book was to present to the West "for the first time, a Chinese perspective" of Chinese theater (1). She correctly observes that much of what has been written by Western scholars and particularly by Western theater artists has presented Chinese theater as a theater of "difference." Riley draws her data from her many years of study in Beijing at the Central Drama Academy and from her own observation of a wide variety of theatrical performances in a number of different regions of China. With the knowledge and experience of "an initiated participant," she sets out to answer such questions as: What does the Chinese spectator, an initiate, or "insider," expect to see as she/he waits for the performance to begin? Is there a body of knowledge about each actor, his heritage, his training, and each play that is shared by insiders to the tradition? How does the Chinese spectator interpret the actor and the role being played and what knowledge must she/he bring to the performance in order to fully understand it? And, one of the key questions driving her study regards the Chinese "performative body": "What is its form? How is it composed? How is it prepared?" (3). Reviews523 One ofthe book's highly insightful findings is expressed in the last sentence which reads: "The Chinese performer embodies all times, all spaces, all members ofthe community, by his presence on stage" (317). This essential characteristic of the traditional Chinese theater was briefly suggested by W. J. F. Jenner in support of his theory of a Chinese notion of historicity which allows for little sense of historical process over time and which views the past as something that is in front of you and not behind. What Jenner only hinted at, Riley thoroughly investigates. Riley has identified a number of key elements or principles that constitute the contextual background against which "insiders" read Chinese theatrical performances and these serve as themes for each of the eight chapters. Discussion of each topic generally begins and ends with examples from the well-known Peking opera (jingju), but she frequently draws heavily upon evidence from other genres including nuo masked theater, puppet theater, rituals of exorcisms, and even ancient mortuary practices. Riley's knowledge ofnumerous performance traditions is impressive and her interest in finding connections between contemporary and ancient phenomenon is to be commended. However, this reader finds the links that she forms across time, space, and genre are not always strongly supported by the evidence presented. For example, the chapter entitled "Yang" [Life] opens with a brief discussion of Mei Lanfang's movement during his entrance as the concubine in the Peking opera The Favorite Concubine Becomes Intoxicated [Guifei zuijiu]. Indeed, Riley claims Mei, perhaps the most important Peking opera performer of the twentieth century, as the center of her study and she asserts that elements of his art are reflected in all Chinese theatrical events. Mei is, in her words, "the one figure that unites all kinds of theatrical performance occurring in China" (9). The discussion...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 522-525
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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