Sobol’s ‘Ghetto’ in China

There is no word for “ghetto” in Mandarin, and most Chinese were and are unaware of the fate that befell European Jewry in World War II. That is why, besides the fact that it is a powerful drama in its own right, Yehoshua Sobol’s Mandarin language production of his multi-award winning Ghetto is such a hit with audiences and critics alike. It tells the story of the Vilna Ghetto theater that, against all the odds, operated in 1942 and 1943 – until the Nazis liquidated the ghetto together with its Jews. The drama unsentimentally and with humor tells of the Jews’ stubborn hope and courage in the face of daily and arbitrary peril.

The Chinese production is the latest of the many Sobol has directed throughout the world and it will tour China’s major cities over the next three months. Besides Beijing, where Ghetto has just premiered, it will play major cities such as Shenzhen, Shanghai, Wuhan and Nanjing though March 2019. In April it will play at the Chinese National Theater in Beijing and then set out on a second tour.

Because there is no word for ghetto, “it’s called ‘The Besieged Jewish City’ in Mandarin,” Sobol explains, “with the word ‘Ghetto’ written beside it in English. The Beijing News, apparently without irony, wrote that the ghetto Jews’ struggle against the repressive and lethal Nazi machine as it is portrayed in Ghetto, conceals an important treasure for people everywhere at this time, and that anyone who sees the play can never forget it.

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