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Korean plays, gugak musical and stand-up comedy at 2023 Adelaide Fringe

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : Feb. 16, 2023 - 22:21

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Four groups of Korean artists will perform at this year’s Adelaide Fringe Festival, one of the world's largest annual arts festivals, which starts on Thursday and runs until March 19.

Held in Adelaide, Australia, the festival of performing arts draws more than 6,000 artists from around the globe. Around 2.7 million visitors enjoyed the festival in 2019.

Two plays, one gugak musical and one stand-up comedy routine, are scheduled as part of the “Korean Season” segment of the festival, at The Arts Theatre in Adelaide from March 7-18. This is the first time Korean art performances will be staged at the festival.

The plays and musical will be performed in Korean with English subtitles, while the stand-up comedy will be delivered in English.

Scene from the play “Hello, the Hell: Othello” (Jakhwa) Scene from the play “Hello, the Hell: Othello” (Jakhwa)

The three-person physical theater “Hello, the Hell: Othello” by the creative team Jakhwa depicts the stories of three characters in Shakespeare’s “Othello.”

Set in the afterlife, Othello, who killed Desdemona, is living in a hell where he is punished with relentless nightmares. Iago is also punished for his crimes of the past, when one day, Iago realizes how to escape from the nightmare.

The play premiered in Seoul in April 2022. The cast includes actors Song Jae-hee and Choi Woong as Othello; Cha Seon-woo, also known as Baro from K-pop group B1A4, and Han Sang-hyuk from VIXX as Iago; and Lim Na-young from the now-disbanded project girl group I.O.I as Desdemona.

This is Cha and Lim’s theatrical debut.

“The movements are based on modern dances. We are thinking a lot about how to convey the messages and emotions through dance and body movements,” said Cha during a press conference held in Mapo-gu, Seoul, Thursday.

Scene from the play “Black and White Tea Room” (Adelaide Fringe Festival) Scene from the play “Black and White Tea Room” (Adelaide Fringe Festival)

Another play, “Black and White Tea Room” by Theatre Hooam, focuses on the relationship between a perpetrator and his victim living during the democracy movement in Korea in the 1980s.

The acclaimed play centers around a former police officer-turned-counselor and his client. Soon it becomes clear the two have met before in less than friendly circumstances.

The historical play has been performed in the US, UK and Japan in local languages including at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2018 and 2019.

“Although it is about the specific history of democratization in Korea, the emotions and impressions conveyed by artistic performance and universal,” said director and scriptwriter Cha Hyun-suk.

Director Cha also plays the counselor. Cha added that the Adelaide show will be performed in Korean.

“I don't think there has ever been as many requests for Korean shows as there are now,” he said. “Of course, the translation has been edited over time to hit the right notes.”

Scene from the gugak musical “Ari Arari” (Adelaide Fringe Festival) Scene from the gugak musical “Ari Arari” (Adelaide Fringe Festival)

The gugak musical, “Ari Arari,” by the Jeongseon Arirang Culture Foundation reinterprets the tale of Jeongseon Arirang with a modern touch on the story and the music, adding traditional elements here and there.

The story follows a skilled woodchopper who leaves his family in Jeongseon, Gangwon Province, to participate in the remodeling of Gyeongbokgung. However, his trip goes awry when he squanders his money through gambling. Fifteen years later, his daughter, Ari, leaves for Hanyang to find her father.

The show premiered as a part of the opening ceremony for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics.

The troupe's members were confident that they could overcome the language barrier by communicating directly to global audience members’ hearts.

Kokoon (Adelaide Fringe Festival) Kokoon (Adelaide Fringe Festival)

Kokoon, a five-member comedy act who debuted in 2018 on tvN’s comedy show “Comedy Big League,” will perform an hourlong stand-up comedy routine, incorporating singing, dancing and rapping.

The entire routine will be in English, and there will also be time for Kokoon members to interact with the audience.

Detailed schedules for each performance are available via Adelaide Fringe’s official website.