We went to Daehangno to see some theatre in quite a while.
There was not much time before the show, as we also took a stroll through the interesting—and suddenly quite urgent—exhibition “A Journal of the Plague Year” (역병의 해 일지) at the ARKO Art Center (아르코미술관). Taking the “unparalleled shutdown of Hong Kong in 2003 due to SARS” as its focus point, the exhibition goes beyond this recent event, and beyond Hong Kong. The art works and historical artifacts on display relate to “fear of contamination, both physiological and cultural, as well as the anxieties held within societies that encounter alterities and face their own projections and prejudices”, ranging from the “yellow peril” to the 1997 handover and the subsequent influx of mainland tourists in Hong Kong, and anti-Chinese riots in colonial Korea.
If you look closely (click to zoom), you can see one of the most touching works in this image. The artist is Pak Sheung Chuen (白雙全) from Hong Kong and the title of this work from 2003 is 3692, 11.05.2003. The name tag states the following description:
To contain the spread of SARS, property management companies place a plastic sheet on the number pad of the combination lock for the entrance of buildings. The sheets get cleaned and changed on a regular basis. This is a used plastic sheet, bearing traces of residents’ comings and goings as well as the entry code for the building (3692).
And then we saw the first half of a gugak-performance (or rather a kind of pre-recorded lecture concert?) by the ensemble Gomool (국악동인 고물). The event — part of the “Tradition (un)realized”-project at ARKO Art Center (in Korean)—was quite “discoursive”, as the title “Three Critical Debates on the Traditional Music of Korea II” (국악에 대한 세 가지 논쟁 II) already indicates, and deals with “the process in which the idea of traditional Korean music [국악] breaks apart the grammer of the Joseon musical legacy. Their self-reflective approach sounds very interesting and I am sure to hear more of them soon. Unfortunately, the text was hard to understand, as the recorded voice talking about the politics of tradition was very fast and subtitles were small and only shown on a small screen in the centre of the stage. There was a full-script available, but it was too dark to read along…
So much for the appetizers. These are three banners of pieces that looked promising—once again, without warranty, except for the third piece that proved very good.
1. This is possibly the first performance of Faust 2 (rarely put on stage, anyway) in Korea, at least the first I’m aware of. Directed by Yoon Si-Joong (윤시중) with Théâtre Haddangse (극단 하땅세), this piece is coming up next weekend (Oct. 11-14) at Daehangno Arts Theater (대학로 예술극장), as part of the Seoul Performing Arts Festival (SPAF, 서울국제공연예술제). See a trailer-video at Youtube.
2. This is for the nice typography, the lightbox is standing in front of a restaurant that we passed several times moving back and forth — and it always caught my eye. 술래잡기 (“Hide and Seek”) is a piece of “thriller theatre” by 우리네극장 (“Our Theatre”), playing on an open run since last fall at 대학로 우리네 극장 5층 (tickets at Interpark, some impressions on the blog 두산나비)
3. I took this picture after seeing The Memoir of Komachi (코마치후덴), a production by Lee Yun-taek (이윤택) and his Street Theater Troupe (연희단거리패), also at SPAF. This is an adaptation of a classic work by Japanese dramatist Ōta Shōgo (太田省吾 / 오타 쇼고, 1939–2007) that deals with memories, the return of long lost feelings, and the last days in the life of hundred-years-old woman, played by the fantastic Kim Mi-suk (김미숙).
Originally a “silent station play” largely inspired by nō, Komachi Fūden (小町風伝, “The Tale of Komachi Told by the Wind”, see the Japanese Drama Database) premiered in 1977 and is now considered a landmark piece among Ōta’s experimental approaches towards tradition and avantgarde. An English translation by Mari Boyd is published in the anthology Half a Century of Japanese Theatre (Hawai’i UP 2004, see publisher’s homepage).
After a bit of googling I found some interesting excerpts on “Ōta Shōgo’s Theatrical Vision” from Mari Boyd‘s book Aesthetics of Quietude: Ōta Shōgo and the Theatre of Divestiture (Sophia UP, 2006, see publisher’s homepage) at the Japanese Performing Arts Resource Center (which is part of the GloPAC, an international resource site on performing arts that is seemingly discontinued). Boyd writes:
When Ōta decided to produce his seminal work, The Tale of Komachi Told by the Wind (Komachi fūden, 1977), on a nō stage, his initial objective was to pollute the stage with contemporaneity. However during rehearsals, he felt that the nō stage with its 500-year history had rejected the flimsy dialogue of his play. He suppressed the lines of the main character, Komako, and in doing so found the power of passivity in the ensuing silence. (source)
As the pamphlet of the Korean production notes, “Lee Yun-taek puts words into Ōta Shōgo’s ‘drama of silence'”.
— 2 Oct. 2014 (木)