The Sound 声临其境, as the name implies, is a variety show where viewers are treated to a feast for the ears as actors showcase their voices and prove just how important line reading is to acting. Dubbers’ contributions to Chinese dramas should not be overlooked, but it makes a huge difference when you have good actors who are able to use their own voices.
Each week, four actors are invited to dub a wide variety of characters behind the stage, and the two most popular guests make a brief appearance before all four of them prepare a short stage performance.
Disclaimer: This may look like a Zhu Yawen fangirling post, but it’s not, I swear.
Episode 3: A Gentleman’s Voice (one-off recap)
Guests: Li Jianyi, Gao Yalin, Zhu Yawen, Zhai Tianlin
Some of the actors from Hunan TV’s hit drama In the Name of the People have gathered for a secretive meeting, where they will decide who to send to the variety show as representatives of Handong (the fictional province where the drama was set). Gao Yalin (Home With Kids) and Li Jianyi (Romance of the Three Kingdoms 1994, Legend of Mi Yue) are the chosen candidates, and their friendly quarrels are a delight (especially after last week’s episode, where the senior actors Tang Guoqiang, Ning Jing, Zhang Tielin and Chen Jianbin were just too polite and reserved).
The last two guests are Beijing Film Academy alumni Zhu Yawen (Red Sorghum, The Witness) and Zhai Tianlin (The Advisors Alliance, White Deer Plain), two charismatic actors whom I really like. During standby, all four guests run through their lines again, and Zhai Tianlin gets so nervous he needs to be consoled by the others XD. The show really begins when host and freelance voice actor Wang Kai (NOT the actor or popular dubber) enters the stage.
This week the show has also invited theatre professors, line reading teachers and voice acting directors, as well as Hunan TV’s own voice Ding Wenshan (the dubber behind the station’s promos). They don’t do much, but they’re better than some of the guest judges from Birth of a Performer 演员的诞生 (*cough* H&R Century’s CEO). Du Haitao (Happy Camp host), Niu Junfeng (Princess Agents) and three other new actresses make up the rather useless ‘classroom’ section, though thankfully they don’t stick out like a sore thumb.
Round 1: Classic Voices
First up is Zhai Tianlin, who dubs Huang Bo’s character in Crazy Stone. He even hunches so his voice sounds stifled, which matches up with the character’s situation of being stuck under a sewer. He then switches to the role of statesman Zhang Yi in Qin Empire: Alliance, before reverting back to his cute and clumsy personality as he tries to fend off unwanted questions from enthusiastic students.
Gao Yalin takes on Chow Yun-fat, Ge You and Jiang Wen in Let the Bullets Fly, and then becomes an emotional father (Chin Shi-chieh) in The Last Woman Standing, bringing a couple of female audience members to tears as they think about their own dads.
Li Jianyi does a fantastic impersonation of Slow Goat and the Big Bad Wolf in Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, before voicing Tie Niu in Water Margin 1998 (he was also the original dubber). Li Jianyi dubbed no less than twenty characters in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, so this exercise is a walk in the park for him.
Last but not least, Zhu Yawen dubs Zhang Jiayi in White Deer Plain and Yin Zheng in Goodbye Mr. Loser. It’s worth pointing out that during the entire segment, Zhu Yawen didn’t look at the script once – he’s completely immersed himself in the characters. His interactions with Zhai Tianlin are hilarious, as they take turns mimicking each other’s voices. One of the female students asks Zhu Yawen to speak in a really manly voice, and he replies: “Babe, do you like my voice?” She swoons on stage, and I’m just smiling at the screen like a love-struck teenager.
Zhai Tianlin then voices the main characters from A Better Tomorrow using at least seven dialects, while Zhu Yawen sounds exactly like Li Youbin when dubbing Unsheathing the Sword / Liang Jian. All four actors take on female characters from Women Who Flirt, and Zhu Yawen does a perfect impression of Zhou Xun and Evonne Hsieh’s voices.
As expected, Zhu Yawen is the first to appear on stage, and he recreates a scene from Red Sorghum, except this time his true love is Du Haitao instead of Zhou Xun. The best part is how delighted Du Haitao’s mum looks LOL.
Round 2: Magical Voices
The four actors are now radio hosts, and each one focuses on a different topic. Zhai Tianlin gets all the funny tongue-twisters, while everyone falls head over heels in love with Zhu Yawen’s sexy voice.
Zhai Tianlin is the second actor to come to the stage, and when the host asks him what’s changed since he gained a doctoral degree, Zhai Tianlin awkwardly replies that nothing has changed. Ha, the honesty. He then reprises his role as Yang Xiu in The Advisors Alliance, before leaving the stage to Li Jianyi and Gao Yalin. Li Jianyi and host Wang Kai take turns dubbing a line of dialogue from all the heroes in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and the result is absolutely impressive.
Round 3: Stage Performance – Nirvana in Fire
The actors act out the ending climax of Nirvana in Fire in the final round, with Zhai Tianlin as Mei Changsu, Zhu Yawen as Prince Jing, Li Jianyi as Emperor of Liang and Gao Yalin as Marquis of Yan. It’s always difficult to turn a lengthy scene from a drama into a short stage performance, and when the director makes random cuts without informing actors of the original story, the final product is bound to suffer. At least the actors did the best they could with what was given.
Next Episode Preview: A Woman’s Charming Voice, featuring Han Xue, Xu Fan, Alyssa Chia and Ma Sichun.