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Adapted by Blind Summit

From the book Mr China's Son by He Liyi 



"This is a very true story, a story that came from my true life and from my heart."

- He Liyi


Mr China's Son was based on the life story of He Liyi, a Chinese English teacher who lived through the Cultural Revolution in Kunming, and who now runs a cafe for backpackers in Dali. He wrote his extraordinary story in a book in English. It gives a unique insight into the experience of millions in the countryside in Mao's China.


He Liyi's dreams of becoming an English teacher and marrying his student girlfriend are dashed when politics tears his life apart. Condemned as a "rightist" and a "lover of America" because he has learned English, he is forced to abandon his studies and return to the life of a peasant farmer. Survival becomes his only priority. Starvation, political bullying, then imprisonment and hard labour in salt mines follow as thousands and millions of people starve in the Great Leap forward. He Liyi makes a practical marriage, hides his books and ekes out a living for a few years by a variety of desperate means whcih include collecting the village shit and selling it, illegally, for manure.

After the revolution He Liyi sets up the Cultural Exchange Cafe in Dali where Nick Barnes met him in 1995 and was inspired to tell his story with puppets. Blind Summit was formed to make the show.

A story of rice and revolution.

"All the best puppet shows tell stories in a way that couldn't be matched by live actors: not many, however, achieve the synthesis of narrative and form found in 'Mr China's Son'."  


"After this show, bad acting should never be called wooden."

"thrillingly unconventional…" 


"I loved it." What's On

Mr China's Son

ORIGINAL WORKSHOP 1997 - Blind Summit's inaugural project

Director/ Designer/ Puppet Maker - Nick Barnes

Costumes - Jackie Risman

Cast - Mark Down, Kwong Loke, Jackie Risman, Tumtim Hitaitip

Premiere: Pleasance, London 2002 

Designer and Puppets by Nick Barnes

Written and Directed by Mark Down

Original Music by Andy White, Ernesto Tomasini

Costumes - Jackie Risman

Lighting by Neil Austin

Cast -

Word of Mao: Li-Leng Au
Girlfriend: Cassandra Friend
Traveller: Colin Hoult
Puppeteer: Charlie Llewelyn-Smith
Voice of Peking: Ernesto Tomasini
Father: Tom Yang

Produced by Martin Sutherland (MSP)

BAC Workshop performance, March 2003

Directors - Mark Down and Nick Barnes
Lighting and Operating - Maple Potts
Sound - Andy White

Cast - Tom Yang, Miranda Cooke, Bob Pierce

Lots of thanks to Christina, Louise, Tom and everyone at BAC

Funded by:

Arts London


Generous donations from individuals 

Hovis Trust

Music funded by Katherine Henry

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