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Storyville: Fame in China

Wed Dec 4, 10-11.20pm, BBC4

Storyville: Fame in China
By Jon Lynes |
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Before one student joined Beijing’s prestigious Central Academy of Drama, his father told him, ‘I don’t expect any honour. Just don’t bring me any shame.’ Hardly the most encouraging send-off for a teenager, but neither is it an unusual sentiment in China’s one-child society. Whether it’s self-imposed pressure, parental expectation or guilt at how much their elders have sacrificed, many of the students at the college feel compelled to become stars and make a fortune, often for their strict, demanding parents.

Appropriate, then, that in collaboration with Broadway, the students put on a performance of ‘Fame’. First though, they must audition against each other for those all-important leads. For a documentary with so much singing and dancing, the intensity of the rivalry and pressure the students put themselves under is excruciating.

Given the extremely competitive nature of the industry, it’s inevitable that only some of China’s rising stars will make it. With children from very different family backgrounds living in disparate circumstances, this ‘Storyville’ provides a fascinating, revealing portrait of modern Chinese society.

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