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The Tempest - EIF 2011

King's Theatre
4 stars
For the second eastern take on Shakespeare that heads up EIF's theatre
programme, Korean director Tae-Suk Oh and his lively ensemble of
twenty-three actors and four musicians rip into the bard's final work in
a restless display of high-kicking music and dance theatre that fuses
Shakespeare's original with a story taken from the Korean Chronicles of
the Three Kingdoms. The result is an audaciously playful reading that
must mark the production out as one of the lightest, brightest and
precociously delightful Tempests ever.

It begins with a flourish, as the white-clad troupe conjure up a storm
with a gymnastic display and an elaborate network of sheets. Next we're
introduced to Taoist magician King Zilzi, this version's equivalent of
Prospero, here a black-clad ascetic figure. Caliban becomes Ssangdua, a
grotesque two-headed creature, and Ariel a Shaman priestess made of
straw. Throw in a menagerie of ducks, sheep and other farmyard animals,
and a breathtaking mix of ancient and modern styles can't help but
captivate for the show's full hundred minutes.

Don't be fooled by the surface cheek and frivolity of proceedings,
however, as the play's underlying profundity is worn as lightly as a
haiku, and is all the more effective because of it. With the action
beautifully scored by music arranger Eun-Jeung Wu on an array of
traditional Korean instruments, this is an all too rare sighting of
eastern theatre flirting with western culture rather than the other way
round.

At the end, with all resolved and Ssangua enjoying the effects of
freedom that only being sawn in half can provide, the lights go up and
Zilzi steps out to the audience, passing on his wisdom, comic to the
last.

The Herald, August 15th 2011

ends

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