The performance is an adaptation of a modern spoken drama play with the same title Thunderstorm by Cao Yu. The plot involves family hierarchies, adultery, incest, threatened murder and labour unrest. The relationships between masters and servants, as well as between stepmother and stepson, not only reveal love and hatred but also embed an exploration of fate within a plot that exposes the oppressive realities of contemporary society. The themes reflect the spirit of iconoclasm in the 1920s and 1930s which advocated the liberation of the individual from the patriarchal family and the emancipation of workers from capitalist exploitation. The drama’s tragic ending, inspired in part by Greek tragedy, is also a meditation upon fate.
The clip presents a “dialogue” in singing form between the mother Lu Shiping and her daughter Sifeng. When Shiping was young, she was a maid in a rich family. She was in love with the young master but she was driven out (even after giving a birth to a male heir of the family and being pregnant once more), and separated from her two-year-old son, because the young master had to marry a young woman from a family of equal social status. After having learnt that Sifeng is now a servant too, Shiping becomes anxious that her daughter may follow her tragic path. In the clip, she is pressing her daughter for the truth and demands her to swear to the thunder that she will never lie to her mother.