Thursday, June 7, 2012

Korea - Midsummer Night's Dream

Take off

This was my first Globe To Globe play. And also my first experience of being a groundling. During my hour-long wait which included standing in a queue, sitting on a bench and then standing at 'my spot' in the Globe's yard in front of the stage, I learnt a few rules about being a groundling.

Groundling Rules

- If you ever buy a groundling ticket to watch a play at the Globe come prepared to bear nature in all its glory and fury!

- Do report one hour in advance to ensure you get a good spot from where you can get the best view of the stage and the actors - 'my spot' was in the second row of groundlings in the centre.

- Do not carry heavy baggage as you would not want to trudge along the night with a baby elephant on your back!

- The baggage rules are a bit inconsistent. The staff may request for a bag-check or ask you to keep your bag in the cloak room depending on their...let's say mood! So if you do end up coming in advance to reserve a spot, you may end up being very cross if you were asked to get out of line for a bag check or were sent to the cloak room to drop of your bag. By the time you return there will be ten more people between you and your initial pole position. But it may not be like this if the person behind you is an old kind lady who offers to take the effort to walk through the queue to find you and reinstate you at your original place - just like she did for me! God bless her!

- The groundling tickets are the cheapest - £5 (exactly the same price they were 500 years ago in Elizabethan times - 1 pence x inflation index)

- Socialise with your fellow groundlings. You will be surprised how like-minded our lot is. By the end of the 11 plays I could recognise regular faces who came to see every show or most shows (like me). I had my own small Globe-to-Globe peer group which included a Professor and a Ph.D pursuant.

First impressions

I had been to the Globe once before on a complimentary show of the Twelfth Night performed by some students of Rutgers University something from U.S.A. somewhere. It was a memorable experience as it saw my school-hood-dream come true. But it was a rather rushed evening for me and my friend because as usual I was late and she had to wait for me at the gate! Once inside we swapped between standing and sitting and tried to get accustomed to this new style of theatre-watching.

The second time was just a few days before this performance when I came for a press visit for the Globe's exhibition and theatre tour. The 20-minute theatre tour gave me a sneak peek of a pre-performance rehearsal of Richard III in Mandarin! The lead actor was stellar, we had prime centre seats on the top-deck and were lucky to see the cast rehearse the coronation scene.

But this time I was alone, excited and on time! Sigh...

Standing there with a blank space in my head I was not sure what to expect. I was there to see a play in a language I did not understand. My colleagues at work thought I had gone a bit overboard by spending my money on 11 tickets to plays in languages as alien to me as chalk is to cheese. I geared up all my sensory organs to enable me to grasp as much as I could from the kinesthetics taking place on stage. Retrospectively, having seen 11 plays I realized each country had it's own style. It's own flavour, music, interaction, use of space, dramatization techniques, story telling characteristics, and costumes. The only common strand was Shakespeare.

Korea  landing

The side-screens lit-up and the announcement flickered across the screen in neon red - 'Welcome to the Globe. Please switch off your mobile phones and cameras'. These side screens acted like translators with the synopsis of each scene flashing throughout the play to help non-speakers and non-Shakespearers understand the act better.

And then the magic started.

It was in the middle of summer (almost) and the night was setting in. The dream had begun! The forest fairies entered and from that moment till the moment they left stage I was captivated by their charm.

Korean Style

The play was high on dramatisation and expressions.  Jute bags or gunny bags were slit open to make jackets for the fairies. The make-up accentuated every facial feature of the actors - a white wash with bright pink and blue rouge and fine designs in inky black helped magnify their every cringe and smile. Their hair was tied in a messy nest bun with strands of jute.

On the other hand the four main leads had bright solid coloured kimonos - yellow, blue, green and red




























The music was set at the back of the stage and had almost all characters take charge at some point or the other. An array of exquisite musical instruments were on show - one of them recreated the sound of falling water (Rain-stick) while another was an ensemble of dangling metal rods of different sizes and emanated a twinkling chime when they were struck in one motion.

The play and its movements were extremely fluid-like. Just like a rapid going downstream. The ride had it's slow zones during the love infused acts, meandering it's way into our hearts and the next moment suddenly gaining pace again with its eclectic mix of song and dance. All the song and dance elements took the story forward.

Some stellar captivating scenes included the entry of the Doruki, the lost-in-the-jungle scene, the scenes where the magical potions are lifted and where the timid herb-collector is the target of the Doruki's mischeif. All beautifully portrayed by classic use of stage-space and action.

The audience interaction added that heart-warming feel to the play - we got house keeping instructions by a comical mime at the start of the show, received neon bands before the interval as freebies and a member of the audience even got tricked to come on stage and take one (after it was licked and handled in the most d├ęgoutant ways); it was comical nonetheless.

It was evident that each person on stage was a superlative actor and dancer. They mostly moved on stage in a peculiar fashion - turning their feet in towards their bodies then turning them out again. Doing this quickly to slide across the stage.

The theatrics of colour, expressions and native music was also accompanied by the sound of recorded bird-songs and artificial smoke which almost left me hallucinating. The music still rings in my ears when I go to dream at night.

Departure

When the break took place. I was left awe-struck by what I had seen. By the time the play ended, an even stronger sense of surprise an awe lurked in the air as it was magnified by how everyone present there felt. They had a grand exit, wading through us groundlings and out into the foyer to incessant noise from the clapping, hooting and cheering. It felt ecstatic...The performance enthused me with such energy that even after an eight hour day at work and three hours of standing on my feet I was not feeling tired at all. To infuse this energy is a magical quality that the act possessed. They actually created positive energy and passed it onto us with their act; that in itself speaks volumes about the quality of their skill. In the end, like a star-struck fan I requested on of the actors for a group photo in the foyer where they were kindly obliging chirpy home-bound viewers. As I walked over the Millenium bridge to my tube station I was smiling inside my head - at how happy I felt. I felt like a different person.

For a change I saw a dream with my eyes open, and I can confirm that it was one of the best dreams I have had

You can now see the play yourself thanks to the Arts Council of England. To incept yourself with performances from the Globe to Globe festival click here.

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