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[Herald Review] Theater turns into barbecue eatery in ‘Table for One’

Actors enjoy barbecue at separate tables in a scene from “Table for One.” (Im Eun-byel / The Korea Herald)
Actors enjoy barbecue at separate tables in a scene from “Table for One.” (Im Eun-byel / The Korea Herald)

The sound, smell and sight of sizzling meat on grill had the audience’s stomach growling during the play “Table for One” at the Doosan Art Center.

The play features main character O In-yong who is left to eat by herself, unable to get along with her colleagues. In order to eat alone well, she takes lessons on how to eat alone at a private institute. 

“Table for One” begins with character O In-yong eating by herself while watching a reality show on a tablet PC. (Doosan Art Center)
“Table for One” begins with character O In-yong eating by herself while watching a reality show on a tablet PC. (Doosan Art Center)

Plastic bags where diners place their coats and jackets at barbecue restaurants to prevent the odor of grilled meat from lingering on the clothes are placed on the seats for the audience to use. In the last scene of the 75-minute play, four actors enjoy a barbecue on separate 1-person grill tables.

Play “Table for One” is an adaptation of a short story by Yoon Ko-eun, published in 2010. According to the art center, the story examines the loneliness and desire for co-existence through the culture of honbap (eating by oneself).

“We thought about how to bring the eating scenes in the original novel to the stage,” director Lee Gi-ppeum, the leader of the drama group Play the LAS, said at a press event held Thursday.

“It was not easy to bring the barbecue scene to the theater,” Lee said. She explained that the production team and the actors went to meat buffet restaurants to test exactly how long it takes for different types of meat to be fully cooked.

“The actors are sick of eating meat now,” Lee added. 

Boxing movements are used to describe character O In-yong fighting her way through life. (Doosan Art Center)
Boxing movements are used to describe character O In-yong fighting her way through life. (Doosan Art Center)

The stage resembles a fight ring and boxing movements are reenacted on stage by the actors to visually describe people’s work life and eating habits.
In the end, character O In-yong realizes that she has to be okay with her own rhythm of life, rather than following the beat of others.

“Eating alone was not a common subject 10 years ago when the novel was written. But times have changed, and eating alone does not seem strange anymore,” playwright Lee O-jin said. 

“People seem to be okay with eating alone, but still, they have this inner anxiety about being alone. I would like ask, if you are really okay with a table for one,” playwright Lee said. “This play is not just about eating alone, it is about living alone at one’s own pace.”

The play continues until May 23 at the Doosan Art Center Space 111 in central Seoul.

By Im Eun-byul (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)
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