The Top Restaurant will be presented at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre from 3rd to 11th December.

By: Nov. 08, 2022
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Life and its many facets are encapsulated in the rise and fall of a century-old Peking duck restaurant in The Top Restaurant, the play that launched former HKRep Resident Playwright He Jiping's career. Based on an ownership tussle over the renowned Fujude restaurant, this story is set in post-1911 Beijing. Foods and their many flavours become metaphors for life, enlivening characters and garnering resonance with the audience, engendering a classic that has transcended time.

The Top Restaurant premiered at the Beijing People's Art Theatre in 1988, then travelled to Hong Kong and Europe, the United States, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan with resounding success and subsequently adapted as an acclaimed TV drama. Following the mainland production of Deling and Cixi, director Roy Szeto applies a modern approach to another He Jiping classic, welcoming former HKRep principal actor and Golden Horse "Best Leading Actor" Tse Kwan Ho to join company members Yu Hon Ting, Chris Sun, Mercy Wong, Ko Hon Man, Chow Chi Fai, Lau Shau Ching, Eddy Au Yeung, Poon Tai Ming, and guest artists Yip Chun and Edward Mok. With a cast of 28, this production will surely be a season highlight. The Top Restaurant will be presented at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre from 3rd to 11th December. Tickets are available now from URBTIX.

The Top Restaurant followed the story of a 100-year-old restaurant Fujude. After the owner (played by Chow Chi Fai) of Fujude-the most renowned duck restaurant in Beijing-retires from ill-health, his two lacklustre sons (played by Lau Shau Ching and Eddy Au Yeung) run the business to the ground. In comes Lu Mengshi (played by Tse Kwan Ho) who turns Fujude around within a few years. When the brothers witness the rising tide, they vow to fight Lu in regaining their rightful share!

Playwright He Jiping penned this to summarise her play: "As we relish in delectable delicacies of the grandest feasts, can we fathom the bitter, spicy, sour and sweet tastes of life embodied in the capital's best culinary offering?" She states, "There is the Chinese idiom 'Food is everything'; eating is paramount, more important than God or Heaven, and food culture is intricately related to society, on par with family unity, government leadership and human conduct. Since its premiere 34 years ago, more than 600 performances of The Top Restaurant have graced the stage. Time is the arbiter whether a play can be a masterpiece or a classic." The Top Restaurant, originally written in putonghua, will be adapted into Cantonese, making it as close and intimate as possible to the local audience.

The Top Restaurant is acclaimed as a masterpiece of contemporary realism, injecting the many tastes of life into the story of a Peking duck restaurant, at the same time accentuating the commonalities and uniqueness of what it means to be human. Director Roy Szeto claims, "What is most enticing about The Top Restaurant is that every character is distinctive. I believe each audience member can find his own place in this narrative. I'm convinced that's what makes this play a classic and a masterpiece." Roy Szeto will employ an innovative approach, bringing The Top Restaurant afresh on stage.

Guest leading cast Tse Kwan Ho returns to the HKRep after a hiatus of more than a decade, participating in the company's 45th anniversary season. Tse says, "I watched The Top Restaurant a long time ago. This play has left an indelible impression on me; the story is so well-crafted it's a total masterpiece. I've been interested in playing some of the other characters, such as the two sons and Kewu. I'm surprised and honoured at the invitation to play Lu Mengshi."

He Jiping is a graduate of the Central Academy of Drama's Department of Theatrology. Her play The Top Restaurant has been praised as a classic of contemporary realism, having appeared on stage for more than 600 performances and toured more than a dozen countries in Europe, America and Southeast Asia and regions. The Top Restaurant, along with Teahouse and Thunderstorm, are widely recognised as iconic plays of the Beijing People's Art Theatre.

Among He's film screenplays are New Dragon Gate, The Great Conqueror's Concubine, Huang Feihong, The Warlords, The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, Our Time Will Come, Hidden Man and Mao Zedong 1949. Her television screenplays include Bai Suzhen, Hong Kong Story, Floral Princess, Chor Lau-Heung, The Feng Shui Master, The Top Restaurant and The Cowherd and the Weaver.

As Resident Playwright of the HKRep, He Jiping wrote such works as Deling and Cixi, Secret of Resurrection, We Are One Family and Grand Opening of a Medical Clinic. She also penned A Red Boat in Misty Rain (Emperor Group Production) and the musical Sweet & Sour Hong Kong combining the performing forces of the HKRep, Hong Kong Dance Company and the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra. She has also written Dawn at the Forbidden City and Youthful Bloom for the China National Peking Opera Company.

He Jiping's scripts have been published in several volumes. She also adapted her own celebrated play The Top Restaurant into a novel. Her works have been included in such collections as Chinese Contemporary Literary Works and 100 Best Plays. The Top Restaurant was selected as part of the Chinese language curriculum of the Ministry of Education. Deling and Cixi is among supplementary materials for the Ministry of Education and is part of Hong Kong's secondary school theatre curriculum.

He Jiping's numerous accolades include the inaugural Wenhua Literary Prize, the Central Academy of Drama's inaugural Academic Prize in Literature, the Cao Yu Award, the Beijing Municipal Excellent Play Award and the October Literary Prize. She was the top winner in the All-China TV Drama Popularity Chart, recipient of the Beijing City Excellent TV Drama Award, "Golden Lion" Best Playwright and Best Original Play as well as the Beijing City Literary Art Award. She was nominated for Best Script at the Hong Kong Film Awards and the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards; she has won Best Script at the Hong Kong Critics Association and Hong Kong Drama Awards, along with Most Popular Production from the latter. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism bestowed upon her an Excellent Playwright award, and she won the Excellent Play Award at 12th Chinese Drama Festival. Among her other honours are Best Script at the Shanghai One Drama Awards, 2019 Best Playwright for China-Taiwan-Hong Kong-Macao, 2020 Huading Award for Top Ten TV Scriptwriters and 2020 Hong Kong-Macao Best Script Award. She is a six-time winner at the 2021 Chinese Theatre Awards, including Best Script and Best Production. He Jiping was named a Model Worker by the Beijing municipal government, Outstanding Female "Six Arts" Artist by the Hong Kong Federation of Women and Phoenix TV's Outstanding Figure in Chinese Culture.

He Jiping serves as advisor to the China Theatre Association, member of the China Writers Association and national committee member of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles. She is an honorary playwright of the Beijing People's Art Theatre, honorary director of the China Overseas Friendship Association, examiner at the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, member of the Hong Kong Screenwriters' Guild, final jury member of the Beijing International Film Festival and a member of the professional jury of the Hong Kong Film Awards and member of the Friends of Hong Kong Association.


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