Fight the Landlord (Dou Di Zhu) is a card game primarily for three players. In each hand one player, the “landlord”, plays alone and the others form a team. The landlord’s aim is to be the first to play out all his cards in valid combinations, and the team wins if any one of them manages to play all their cards before the landlord.
Pan Pan Theatre and Square Moon Culture Ltd have taken the premise of this uniquely Chinese card game and used it as an allegory for life in China, particularly in relation to the cultural revolution and the impact on today’s Y generation.
The audience ventured onto the Her Majesty’s Theatre stage, nestled in a ring of bamboo plants. Some audience joined three actors in panda suits at a large round table, each with a pack of cards. This intimate space is a delight to discover and a unique use of Her Majesty’s stage.
Sun Yue (also writer), Wang Jinglei and Zhu Yutong are our quirky pandas that would put Wang Wang and Funi to shame. There is humour in their movement and their regular musical chairs is entertaining but never intrusive on the audience, despite the confined space. Their “chatting” as they play cards provides insight into the cultural perspective of young Chinese, jumping from “comrades” to enemies in a single hand.
Each of the performers are strong and expressive. When the fourth wall is broken (as it so often is), their cheekiness is a joy to be a part of. The creative use of the card game as a metaphor allows the audience to understand or at least empathise with the real concerns that these performers advocate and laugh with them at the shallowness of city dwelling, or the tedium of being single over thirty. Despite the cultural differences, Fight the Landlord provides a small bridge across the divide that is both entertaining and informative.