[ON STAGE]Show Straddles Art and Life

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[ON STAGE]Show Straddles Art and Life

"Confession of a Red Peter" was origianally a one-man show staged by the legendary mime Choo Song-woong held in a small, fringe theater in Myeongdong in 1977. Choo also produced the play based on Franz Kafka's novel "A Report to an Academy."

In preparation for the play, which is about a mentally disturbed man who identified with a chimpanzee locked in a zoo, Choo lived with the monkeys in Chang-gyeong Palace for six months, and ate about 700 bananas and 500 pounds of grapes during the play's run, which lasted eight years. He died of kidney failure at age 44 shortly after the 1,000th performance of the play. Choo's death was not related to his diet.

Sixteen years after Choo's death, the play has been revised by his two sons, the actor and director Choo Sang-rok and the producer Choo Sang-wook. They call the new rendition a "Cinema live performance"; the show incorporates live music, on-stage narration and a 90-minute digital film.

The new performance again depicts an animal-lover who finds his alter ego in a chimpanzee. This version of the play does not follow a linear storyline or a natural build-up of character development, since the main character's life constantly fluctuates between the past and the future.

By presenting a live voice-over by the same actors who appear on screen, this new version of the play constantly blurs the boundary between fiction and reality and creates a dialogue between art and real life, as the film footage and live narration correspond to each other.

The history of the play is itself a testament to the relationship between art and real life - the life of the artist. "Confession of a Red Peter" is a painful retelling of the life of an ill-fated stage actor who has difficulty distinguishing reality and illusion. Choo Song-woong once revealed in an interview that he felt like he was "lending his body" to his characters whenever he started a new play. This coupled with the memory of the devastating conditions stage actors in Korea, Choo included, suffered both socially and financially during the military dicatorship of the '70s and '80s make the play all the more real.

The film is part of the 2001 Puchon International Film Festival. For more information, call 02-325-5574 (English service available).

by Park Soo-mee

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