Desire displaces Presley as king in new Elvis musical

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Desire displaces Presley as king in new Elvis musical

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The musical “Cooking with Elvis” sounds like a homage to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and in some senses it is. But the point of the drama is not to extoll the virtues of hero worship; rather, it is to show people’s irrepressible appetite for food, sex and fantasy.

The theater piece premiered in Edinburgh in 1999 and met with rave reviews one year later at the city’s famous fringe festival. This is in no small part to British playwright Lee Hall, who also wrote the screenplay for the hit movie “Billy Elliot” in 2000.

But Cooking with Elvis comes across as more of a dark comedy, highlighting the clash between morality and our basic instincts.

The plot follows a 38-year-old women who finds caring for her husband, who is in a vegetative state, stressful and is unable to mask her sexual desires after he becomes physically unable to satisfy her. Not given a name in the play, she meets a younger man called Stuart at a bar and invites him to live with her. Stuart, in his 20s, becomes involved in a love triangle with the woman and her daughter, Jill, who transfers her desire from food to sex.

Scenes showing the women expressing their passion are interwoven with images of the father imagining himself dressed like Elvis and belting out his songs.

Soon Stuart becomes the focal point of all their desires: pleasing the wife sexually, eating Jill’s home-cooked meals and tending to dad’s Elvis costumes.

The problem is that despite a smooth plot and rich characterizations, Stuart’s desires are never made clear.

At the end of the play, you are left wondering whether the family members found peace by discovering Stuart - thus giving full vent to their desires - or by getting rid of him, suggesting a need to control our desires.

*The musical runs until Oct. 30 at the Hanyang Repertoire Theater Company. Performances start at 8 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, with two shows on Saturday at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., and one on Sunday at 4 p.m. Tickets range from 35,000 won ($30) to 40,000 won. Under 19s will not be admitted, so identification is required. To get to the theater, head to Hyehwa station, line No. 4 and take exit 1. For more information, call 1588-1555, or go to cafe.naver.com/cookingwithelvis.


By Lee Sun-min [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]
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