The Korean Shakespeare Experience

험난한 여정 뒤에 만나는 진실한 사랑"The course of true love never did run smooth"

험난한 여정 뒤에 만나는 진실한 사랑
“The course of true love never did run smooth”

We first wrote about this event all the way back in January and had been eagerly awaiting the Korean Shakespeare experience. The Yohangza Theatre group finally arrived on our shores and we were greeted with a super fun night at the Shakespeare Globe Theatre! As part of the ‘Globe to Globe project’, we were treated to two Korean performances of Shakespeare’s play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

When we arrived at the theatre, there were already a MASSIVE amount of people waiting (and stealing all the good spots). The variety of attendees was vast, people from all different ethnics and age ranges – a very different crowd from your usual Kpop events; was a lot more universal! Before the show started, a brief summary of the story was told via the storyboards to help non-Korean speaking viewers get a grasp of the story. It also gave a brief explanation to the Korean names that replaced original character names.

“Our lovers are named after the four divisions of stars according to Korean astrology which is based on the 28 day cycle for the moon to circle around the sun. The name Hang (Lysander) is an eastern star, Rue (Demetrius) a western star, Byock (Hermia) a northern star and Eeck (Helena) a southern star. The stars were believed to be intertwined with the mortal world and reflect or foretell events in the earthly realm. Dot, Kaebi, and Duduri are dokkebi, mythical creatures in old Korean folktales. The dokkebi can be translated into demon. They are not considered evil, like to play tricks on people.”

As we said in our previous post, there is no doubt that the Yohangza Theatre Group’s version of Shakespeare’s play would have all the essential elements, but be wonderfully innovative at the same time and we were not let down. The plot had a few alterations from Shakespeare’s original ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ but provided a lot more comic relief! We never knew Shakespeare could be so fun!

First we start off with the fairies, the dokkebi, throwing a forest party with the Korean fairy King and Queen, Kaebi (Oberon) and Dot (Titania). In this Korean version there is a slight gender reversal. The female appear as the more dominant roles as Dot becomes the trickster and meddler and side kick Puck is split into twins, Duduri, whom according to the program are actually her brothers. Because of this gender reversal, it is then Kaebi who is set for humiliation and falls in love with a poor herb collecting Ajumi who is transformed into a pig rather than an ass. We at the MASSIVE wonder why the animal was changed, could it be because a female cannot be an ass? (Fun word play, although we’re not quite happy about the pig insinuations…)

The storyline of the “mechanics” have been cut completely from this version of Shakespeare’s play but of course we have the main love story. I’m sure we are all familiar with the twist and turns of Shakespeare’s classic play but here’s a quick recap. Byock is forced by her father to marry Rue who loves her but her heart belongs to Hang and in an attempt to stay together, the lovebirds Hang and Byock decide to elope. Byock tells her friend Eeck of her plans and in an attempt to win Rue’s heart herself, Eeck tells Rue of the eloping plans in hope that Rue would forget about Byock.

The Korean Shakespeare Experience

Eeck and Rue

The love between Byock and Hang is very sweet and innocent compared to the US adaptations we have seen of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. There is a very funny scene in the forest during their first night of eloping where Hang, being a hot blooded male tries to get close with pure and innocent Byock. In the mean time, Eeck is following Rue into the forest as Rue tries to stop Byock. Rue is a hilarious character, he is violent towards Eeck which resulted in boos from audiences, but his cocky smirk got a few of us bad boy loving females swooning.

Dot, the chief of the fairies (see how the gender is reversed from original play) sees the drama and decides to teach Rue a lesson, as well as her playboy husband Kaebi. After finding the potion, she sends her brother to do her dirty work. Pervy Hang who had been ordered to the other side of the camp site by Byock is mistaken for Rue and when he is under the spell (where you fall in love with the first person you see) gets woken up by a lost Eeck and instantly falls in love. Eeck is confused by this and having slight self-esteem issues thinks that Eeck is being sarcastic, cue more hilarious chasing (stalking) scenes. Dot successfully humiliates Kaebi by making him fall in love with piggy Ajumi who feeds her to her heart desires, with the audiences experiencing some delicious watermelon too. We were very happy we were on the left hand side of the stage and out of the splash zone!

Shakespeare Globe Korea Yohangza 1

Byock and Hang

Dot corrects the Duduri’s mistake and gets Rue to also fall in love with Eeck leaving Byock baffled and annoyed at her confused friend. Cue hilarious cat fight scenes with super awesome flying kicks. In the end Dot is satisfied that her crazy plans have all materialised and decides to right everything and remove the spells. Kaebi regains sanity and poor Ajumi returns back to an adorable little old lady none the wiser. For her troubles, Ajumi is greeted with a top grade Korean Ginseng as she continues on her herb search. Hang is released from his spell but Rue is left under so that the two couples can live happily ever after and the fairies go back to partying their night away.

We absolutely loved this production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. It was absolutely hilarious and although we were scared of not being able to understand the play, this Korean production is proof that Korean comedy surpasses all language and cultural barriers. This is the kind of Korean culture we are eager to have back in the UK after the amazing shows such as Jump at the Peacock Theatre.

The production was sprinkled with the Korean’s fabulous sense of humour everywhere from the mobile phone warnings and the fire exit announcements, to the fight scenes and interesting use of real life props. As you can see the set was minimal and the cast consisted of only 9 people who took turns playing their character, the musical instruments, as the dokkebi and as the trees of the mystical forest! Kudos to the ingenius posing of the woodland fairies and to the upside down guy! We salute your stamina! Being a foreign language production, Yohangza made great use of their little English by using it to generate greater laughs with a few random but brilliantly timed English phases. “You are my one and only” “I am your puppy” “We have the sex?”, not certain about the last one said behind the printed screen… But wouldn’t be surprised with all the light spanking that was going on!

The costumes were very simple but effective. As the actors who played the four love birds also played the dokkebi during the fairy scenes, they removed their colour co-ordinated outer dresses to avoid confusion. The main dokkebi Dot, Kaebi and Duduri had their face painted resembling that seen in East Asian Opera’s with white faces, vivid colours and intricate detailing. This Shakespeare production also used a lot of music and dancing. As mentioned before, the cast took turns playing the music, a very cost efficient move when you need to be traveling internationally! And the cast of 9 were AMAZING. After the performance, they went down to the lobby and were mobbed! Cue impromptu photo session and the cast members pretty much stayed in character pulling the most laughable faces whilst still looking fabulously photogenic. For more photos visit out Facebook album.

Although the two performances have come and gone, we thoroughly suggest you keep an eye and ear out for any future performances as if you did not go this time, you DEFINITELY missed out! And even though we had to stand for the three hour performance in the rain, we enjoyed every second of it and wish we could watch it again!!!

Shakespeare Globe Korea Yohangza Jung-Ung Yang

The KC MASSIVE Maknae with Director of the Performance Jung-Ung Yang

루! 사랑해요! 성능을 축하합니다 (We hope that made sense!)

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