|A Midsummer Night's Dream, at Shakespeare's Globe, Seven magazine review|
|Life & Entertainment - Performing Arts|
|Written by News desk - telegraph.co.uk|
The Korean contribution to the international Shakespeare festival at the Globe was a colourful revelation
It’s Monday, which meant it had to be Korea. The Globe is taking punters on a whistle-stop tour of 37 countries with 37 of Shakespeare’s plays, which 37 theatre groups from around the world are performing in 37 languages. The night I caught up with it, the Yohangza Theatre Company from Seoul was on the stage, performing an exuberant A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The Globe to Globe Festival is an ambitious, and just ever so slightly dotty, idea that only Dominic Dromgoole – the theatre’s brilliant, unpredictable artistic director – could possibly have dreamt up. The Bard, of Warwickshire way, is not known to have ever taken a single step on foreign soil, but he was nothing if not an internationalist. His words and thoughts inform the entire world, after all.
Still, on the face of it, the idea of Shakespeare in Korean might not have seemed like obvious box-office gold. One shudders, too, at the thought of the organisational nightmare of ensuring that 600 actors, from all over the world, manage to negotiate Heathrow in time to make it to Southwark for their respective cues.
Yet, for all that, even on a rather dismal night, Yang Jung-Ung, a director noted for his avant-garde style, turned Shakespeare’s Dream into a blaze of colour and movement.
It helps, of course, that this is one of Shakespeare’s more abstract works. The jibber-jabber of the characters is less important than realising its all-important dream-like quality. In this adaptation, the characters have been given Korean names and Puck has metamorphosed into two posturing twin jackanapes.
It’s all wonderfully Korean: it has been infused with themes from the country’s culture and folklore. Mercifully, there are English translations available on twin screens for punters who, like me, occasionally got lost. I was particularly struck by Cheong Hae-Kyun playing Gabi (Oberon) and Jeong A-Young as Ajumi (Bottom), while the twin Pucks, or Duduri twins, in the shapes of Kim Sang-bo and Jeon Yung-Yong, were adept crowd-pleasers.
The purists will doubtless say that no translation of Shakespeare can ever possibly match the original, but this production played to a full house nonetheless. Salman Rushdie once said that more things tend to be gained in translations, rather than lost. And, in Korean, this play – perhaps all too familiar to me in English – seemed suddenly like an entirely new work.