Feast of theater at Seoul arts festivalIn the world of art, arrogance can be an acceptable trait. For instance, when a festival namedrops such artists as Sarah Kane, Anton Chekhov and Haruki Murakami in the first few pages of their catalogue, it’s hard not to be tempted by the tasteful selection.
So when a director of the Seoul Performing Arts Festival, which runs until the end of the month, drops those names for his “contemporary theater festival that remains faithful to the basic values of performing arts,” listeners’ ears prick up.
The festival, which encompasses modern works, covers all areas of performing arts and blurs the line between drama, dance and music, opening with “Cleansed,” Sarah Kane’s provocative love story of a young woman wanting to become a man in a production led by Krzysztof Warlikowski, one of Poland’s best theater producers.
The festival dips into modern interpretations by other contemporary masters: The work of Heiner Muller, a German avant-garde writer, which was re-worked into a play, “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” and also made into a Korean film, “Untold Scandal,” will be on stage in a French production led by Sebastijan Horvat. European productions from Romania and Hungary each present “The Seagull” and “Three Sisters” by Anton Chekhov. Albert Camus’ “Le Malentendu,” which reflects the absurdity of human life, has been re-worked into a play by the Japanese director Nakashima Masako. Talented young Korean director Gwang-Bo Kim will stage Bertolt Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children.” A joint production between actors and directors from Israel and Palestine deals with the Israel-Palestinian issue in “Plonter.” “Heart ‘n Soul Unplugged,” put together by disabled artists, is a concert that people with learning difficulties have taken part in writing, performing and singing.
Yet other pieces deal with the notion of personal freedom in modern life through dance. In a French dance work, “Collection Particuliere,” choreographed by Maria Donata D’Urso, female dancers explore human desire and limitations. In “De Farra,” the winner of the Spain Dance Festival, dancers depict the story of a nomadic clown as a metaphor of a modern man who travels without roots.
The festival is also a chance to savor the spirit of modern Korean songs and dance. “The Old Song Book,” which deals with tensions within a modern family, is a realistic drama that has collected songs from life; “My Funeral & Bolero 2006 ― Ghost Story” taps into a folk tale handed down through words; “Autumn and Spring” explores contemporary issues using both classical and modern music from East and West; and “Internal and External” looks at three generations of Korean women.
“Three Beautiful Soulmates” explores different paths taken by three monks during the military rule of the Goryeo dynasty; “Seon-Chan-Zen” references Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”; “The Story of Lovelorn Makdgi” draws on a young farmer’s story of love and hardship.
Joint productions offer a hybrid scene during the festival as well. In “Pushed,” a collaboration between Indian and Korean artists, world-class choreographer Padmini Chettur offers dynamic movements inspired from traditional Indian dance using Korean music. Street performance “Sortie de Cuisine” is a joint work of Korean mime artists and a French street troupe. As a satellite venue, the festival also features a forum on North Korean drama with dancers and actors from South and North Korea.
by Park Soo-mee
Almost all performances have English subtitles and a synopsis in English. The festival runs through Oct. 29 at venues including the ArKo Arts Theater, Mary Hall at Sogang University, Drama Center, the National Theater and Marronier Park. Ticket prices vary. For more information, call (02) 766-0228 or 0298.