The National Theatre Company of China's first ever performance in Israel received a standing ovation as the cast of "Public Toilet" took a bow at the Cameri Theatre last Saturday.
"Please cover up your excrements" was the punch line of the play, directed by Lin Zhaohua and presented as part of the first China Cultural Festival held in Israel, marking 15 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai opened the evening by greeting the audience and welcoming Chinese Ambassador to Israel Zhao Jun to the event, congratulating him on the ties formed between their nations.
Jun extended his thanks to the audience and briefly described the play, saying it showed the social changes that had occurred in China over the past 30 years.
Huldai captured the spirit of the play – both literally and metaphorically - when he said to the audience, "If you really want to get to know a society – enter the bathroom."
Opening scene of 'Public Toilet' takes viewers into Chinese bathroom
Science, Culture and Sport Minister Raleb Majadele then took the stage, congratulating the Cameri and saying that "this play fits the Israeli reality also. A billion people have the same problems as the seven million people in Israel".
Majadele continued to say that after all, the world is "one small global village" and that culture deals with the connections between people and not just governments.
The China Cultural Festival kicked off in May, and by November 2007 will have brought over 200 performers to share their country's rich culture through performances of acrobatics, folk dance, music, exhibitions and plays.
'If you don't cover your excrement, it will bury you'
Put on by a cast of 50 actors and musicians, the play is set at the scene of a Beijing restroom, and follows the life of lead character Xiao Shi and the social and cultural changes that occur in his country over the last three decades of the 20th century.
Shi starts out as the son of a toilet cleaner who expresses higher hopes for his future, but is soon forced to face reality and take over the family business.
Throughout the three-act play, the scene evolves from a dirty gray-brick toilet, to a clean pay-toilet, and eventually to a glamorous five-star hotel washroom. The public restroom maintains a clientele of characters from all walks of life, each with their own personality and problems, with the ever-changing Chinese reality in the background.
The dialogue between Shi and each of the characters, including an academic, a thief, a builder, a homosexual, and a retired Foreign Ministry clerk, portrays different outlooks on life, as they address social and cultural matters with a humor befitting public bathroom culture.
Halfway through the play, one of its characters makes a strong point, the relevancy of which goes beyond restroom maintenance: "If you don't cover up your excrement, you'll get buried under it."