Dohyun Gracia Shin
[Theatre Review] Good-Bye Lee-Sang 본문
[Theatre Review] Good-Bye Lee-SangGracia Shin 2017. 12. 7. 21:20
Seoul Performing Arts Company has premiered its new ambitious repertoire, Good-bye, Lee-Sang (2017). Even before its premiere, Good-bye, Lee-Sang was issued for two aspects—1) It is an immersive theatre with no boundary between actors and the audience; 2) Its original work is an award-winning novel by Yeonsu, Kim.
SPAC’s Good-bye, Lee-Sang may seem subsequently different from Kim’s original work. While Kim selects the writer Lee-Sang as a topic to deliver the message of “unclear boundary between the truth and the fabrication,” SPAC’s Good-bye, Lee-Sang attempts to depict the existence of “Lee-Sang” through expressing the unclear boundary between the truth and the fabrication. In the interview, Kim makes the difference into language: “I wrote the work that goes in from outside, and playwright Sehyuk Oh wrote the work that goes out from inside.” Although the topic of those two pieces may be different, what they deliver through their works may not that be different: unclear boundary which is not able to express the existence in a single way. The various episodes and way of expression ring the identical message.
What is impressive of Good-bye, Lee-Sang is its directed mise-en-scène which coherently supports its message. Director Oh quotes the poet Seunghee Kim in her interview.
“(Lee-Sang) was a ‘hybrid artist’ and ‘intellectual nomad’ who has always attempted to transcend the boundary. He wrote a novel like a poem, an essay like a poem and a poem like a carte. He also experienced things like typography by introducing an art, a geometric figure, a number plate, a press symbol to a poem.”
Director Oh seems to concentrate on Lee-Sang’s aspect of “hybrid artist” or “collage,” and broadens this idea to link between the theme and the expression of Good-bye, Lee-Sang. The Poet Lee-Sang who is a collage of various valuations; and the styles of theatre: the total theatre Gamugeuk and the immersive theatre which connects the performance and the audience. These expressions create the value and meaning of Good-bye, Lee-Sang, which does not deliberately choose to be A nor B.
Why the face of Lee-Sang?
Lee-Sang’s works are known for its intense deliberation on self and modernity. Both the poet Eun Koh who wrote the critical biography on Lee-Sang, and the poet Seunghee Kim who wrote the columns which revaluates Lee-Sang from the perspective of 21st century comment on Lee-Sang’s narcissism and self-exploration. Lee-Sang may be one of the modern Korean writers who most intensely pondered upon oneself. Lee-Sang attempted to address himself by unfamiliarising the expressions. He endeavoured to escape from premodernity by examining things from an alien perspective.
It may be the reason why Lee-Sang in this performance pursue his ‘face,’ deliberating the imagination of how his face may look like. Good-bye, Lee-Sang interconverts the word ‘face‘ with numerous different words like ‘existence,’ ‘role,’ ‘ideology,’ ‘relationship,’ ‘act’ and etc.. These numerous words are collected and overlapped, which becomes ‘identity’ or ‘self.’ Even it becomes ‘face,’ the physical part representing one’s identity. Therefore, he strives for his face, deliberates about it and listens to others’ comment on it.
However, as Lee-Sang faced modernity from premodernity, the contemporary is now facing postmodernism from modernism. Now the world does not presumes one single face from a person. The perspective to ‘self’ is various and those various meanings comprise one’s identity. The roles of ‘self’ also diverge and those roles all becomes the self. ‘I’ from yesterday, ‘I’ from today, ‘I’ of here and ‘I’ of there and more ‘I’s contest and comprises to be a self. This makes a self complicated and ambiguous as the line of Peter Joo from Good-Bye, Lee-Sang infers: “For me, ambiguity was not preference nor selection but my existence itself.”
Peter Joo also says that he was drawn to Lee-Sang’s complicated, ambiguous, undefined and unboundarised work for they resembled his world; and that he felt everything that asked for clean-cut definition violent for his existence was ambiguous (he is unsure of his nationality). Asking for a single defined face is as choosing from those numerous faces. Because those faces are all oneself, a single defined face is not that of fully understood. The compulsion of this lack of understanding works as violence to Peter Joo.
At the end of his journey to find his face, Lee-Sang comments that he more and more is losing his grip of his self, seeing his numerous faces; and that he rather strangely feel more and more pleasurable as he loses his grip of his self. This pleasure may have been aroused because he is getting close to an understanding of himself as he accepts that knowing oneself wholly is a fantasy. Acknowledging that one does not know wholly about oneself is ironically a first wing stroke to understand oneself.
At the moment, the actors and the audience take off their mask (which they have been wearing from the start of the performance). By unmasking themselves, Good-Bye, Lee-Sang invites the audience to also unmask the single understanding on Lee-Sang that the audience is to be presumed to have. The actors rip in pieces the papers which are the single physical matter that contains the text of Lee-Sang. Lee-Sang then dances with those faces (the actors) “in a various, gay and grotesque way which cannot be defined in one style.” After the emancipation from the fixed form and a single face, Lee-Sang, the actors and the audience listen to Mischa Elman deformation piece, which also cannot be defined in one single style.
The Style of Theatre
SPAC’s brand Gamugeuk is a type of total theatre which blends music (ga), dance (mu) and drama (geuk). It also mixes the Western style of musical with the style, topic and atmosphere of Korean traditional drama. As Good-bye, Lee-Sang suggests that Lee-Sang cannot be defined by a single face, Gamugeuk of SPAC is also difficult to be explained in one definition. They seem more like dance performance to one who expects that of the musical while presenting more the scene of drama to the one who expects that of dance performance. A lot of audiences point out this characteristic of genre mixture in their reviews. This is the question to SPAC themselves: the critiques on their company identity. However, this characteristic of mixture or collage rather blends along with the performance Good-bye, Lee-Sang efficiently for this characteristic suits for the theme of performance. The form of Gamugeuk broadens the limited expectation of the performance and unfamiliarise the audience with the not-well-known style of theatre. This makes the Gamugeuk Good-bye, Lee-Sang the unique repertoire of SPAC.
Then Gamugeuk, the collage type of performance meets the style of immersive theatre, which literally immerses the audience into the performance itself. As soon as they may think that they have set their feet in the lobby, the performance itself begins since there is no boundary between the lobby and the theatre. Then, the audience becomes a part of the performance by wearing a same design of the mask. Wearing the mask, they have a conversation on who they think Lee-Sang is and on what they expect from this performance. Since what they converse in various perspective is all the parts of Lee-Sang and the performance itself, they unconsciously or consciously comprises the part of Lee-Sang’s collective identity or the ‘face.’ Then they sit freely anywhere on the stage in any direction or perspective, they witness Lee-Sang’s journey to find his face and becomes a part of it. After the performance, the instant reactions and reviews to the performance continue the process of the performance. For the various reactions and reviews collects to become another Good-bye, Lee-Sang, the performance survives even after its “good-bye.”
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