A Midsummer Night’s Dream – A fun retelling of one of Shakespeare’s classic comedies.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream but not as we know it…This interpretation (brought to Australia by Yohangza Theatre company) is based in Korean mythology and draws on music, movement-based theatre and mime to create a vibrant new take on the traditional with Fairy King Oberon and Queen Titania reversing gender roles, Bottom portrayed as a country woman and the character of Puck split into twins.
It’s a midsummer’s night and the Dokkebi (fairies from Korean mythical folklore), who love dancing and singing, are having a big party. In the story Hang has fallen in love with Beok, but Beok’s father is forcing her to marry Loo, so they decide to run away together and secretly get married. Beok accidentally tells her best friend Ik of their plan. Ik is in love with Loo, but Loo is in love with Beok. Ik decides to tell Loo of Beok’s secret in the hope that he will give up his love for Beok but instead he sets off into the forest to find the runaway lovers. Meanwhile, in the world of the Dokkebi, Dot (the Queen of all the fairies) has a plan to fix her husband Gabi, the Dokkebi King who is constantly chasing girls. She enlists Puck (split into twins) to find the magical plant that will help her succeed. Along the way the twins meet Bottom: here a superstitious old woman called Ajumi, who has spent her life wandering the forest collecting herbs. Fearful of the spirits of the forest she tries to protect herself and makes an offering to the Gods, but she cannot escape Puck’s mischief.
Yohangza is a South Korean theatre company founded in 1997 by director/writer Jung Ung Yang. Yang explains that Yohangza means ‘Travellers’. "Life is a journey and through the journey of life we meet a lot of people," he says. The company has certainly done that – since its inception it has performed in Edinburgh, Barbican, Poland, France, Colombia, Ecuador, China, Japan and the USA.
When asked about the reversal of gender roles Yang has this to say: "The reverse of roles between Oberon and Titania is consistent with Korean outlook on male and female roles. The woman is the embodiment of wit and sensibility. She ensures the home and family are kept together. Men have inclination to go off track and it is the woman’s role to show them sense."
Korean culture and mythology is an important part of Yohangza and translates to this interpretation of a Shakespeare classic. Yang chose to have Bottom replaced by an old woman because: "Young women will not go to the forest by themselves at the dead of night. The old woman, who was out collecting herbs, is metamorphosis into a pig rather than into any other animal because in Korea a pig is synonymous with stupidity and fortune."
Yang’s philosophy on why he chose to tackle Shakespeare is very simple: "Shakespeare is my favourite playwright. His plays involve a relatively large cast and offer lots of drama and profundity. This is a very romantic play and I am very romantic person."
Performed in Korean with English surtitles, this visual adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most popular creations can be seen at the Arts Centre , Playhouse for a one week season (four performances only) in September.