Tim Yip has a thing for Eileen Chang. He has been an avid reader of the Shanghainese romance writer for as long as he can remember. “The way she wrote is poetic and unlike any other writer, and her subject matter was [unique],” Yip says, referring to a community of fashionable individuals peopling her stories. These members of society who lived in the city were part of haipai culture, an avant-garde, East-meets-West approach to life started in 1920s Shanghai, where foreign trades were made and western culture was introduced. Their sleek outfits, such as the qipaos worn by wealthier families, are among the most elaborately described elements filling the pages of Chang’s work, including her magnum opus, Love in a Fallen City, a new adaptation of which will mark Yip’s stage directorial debut.
Don't miss: The Woman Behind The Words: Eileen Chang
Given the artist’s reputation in the world of costume design—he was the first Chinese person to win an Academy Award for Best Art Direction and a Bafta Award for Best Costume Design in 2001—one would be justified in expecting him to focus on the fashion for the production, which opened in Shanghai in October, toured in Hangzhou and Hunan in November, and will be be staged in Beijing in January. But for his version of this frequently adapted novella, Yip does more than simply dress his actors to impress. The ambitious multimedia piece incorporates both film and stage elements, and adopts a new approach to the story.
In case you missed: A Day in the Life of Hins Cheung’s Stage Costume Designer
The story follows Bai Liusu, a Shanghainese divorcée, shunned by her traditional family, and Fan Liu Yuen, a Malaysian businessman and playboy, who find love in war-torn Hong Kong in the 1940s. Instead of being driven by the plot, however, his Love in a Fallen City focuses on what happens in the characters’ minds. “I directed this play because of the uncertainty throughout the story. The two characters can’t readily reach each other even when they’re side by side,” Yip wrote on his Instagram.