Performers take goofy, surreal road to big ideas

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Performers take goofy, surreal road to big ideas

The fifth Seoul Performing Arts Festival starts on Friday featuring 25 performance groups from 12 countries including Germany, Belgium, Russia, Brazil and Japan. The festival will take place in various locations, including Daehangno and Jangchung-dong through October 16.
This year’s highlights include a number of innovative and controversial performances. Themes are often serious, such as the problems of capitalism, reduced media freedom in the U.S. after the September 11th attacks, abnormal families in the Middle East and the impact of scientific development on human happiness. Many performances combine different genres of art, and some are collaborations of Korean and foreign artists.
Among the 25 performances, some have drawn a particularly enthusiastic response from audiences and even generated controversy.
“Do We Ever Know?” performed by a Belgian performance troupe, deals with people’s alter egos. Fantastic visual effects prevent the audience from distinguishing between the actors on stage and reproduced images of them, making a bizarre and surreal atmosphere. Meanwhile, the actors’ voices are electronically transformed, creating an even stranger and more mysterious feeling.
“The History of Ronald, the Clown of McDonald's” is a performance that points to the inequality and unnecessary consumption driven by capitalism. The performance starts with Ronald giving a monologue about unrelated subjects such as family, obsessions, animation, advanced countries and poor countries. However, the audiences begin to understand the unifying theme, when the man says that our thoughts and our diet are related.
Another performance, “Back to the Present,” by a German performance troupe, plays various genre of music from different eras ranging from old pop songs to MTV music. The actors do everything from singing to playing instruments. This performance mainly shows how art can be borderless.
“Red Demon” is a performance from Japan featuring Korean actors. In the story, a man who drifts to an island gets killed by the villagers simply because he looks different ― the villagers call him a red demon. The performance depicts a self-centered and close-minded human nature.
The festival is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and Seoul city. For more information visit the official web site of the Seoul Performing Arts Festival at For tickets, call 02) 766-0298 or 0228.

by Choi Sun-young
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