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Updated: May 21, 2014 16:03 IST

Mirroring conflict: ‘Medea and its Double’

SHONALI MUTHALALY
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A scene from 'Medea and its Double'. Photo: R. Ravindran
The Hindu
A scene from 'Medea and its Double'. Photo: R. Ravindran

A whirlwind of colour and emotion, ‘Medea and its Double’ provides a fresh look at the Euripides classic

The Seoul Factory for the Performing Arts (Mumbai)

When Prof. Hyoung-Taek Limb decided to work on a Korean version of ‘Medea’, his idea was to create an entire set of songs and chants set to dance and movement, all transferred from the original text of the Euripides classic.

With extravagant sets and heartbreaking music, this haunting version of ‘Medea’ amplifies and explains the complex web of emotion that holds this story together, by conjuring up two Medeas on stage.

It features the Medea of the present, abandoned by her husband Jason, lonely and angry, desperate and revengeful, plotting the death of her two children. The other represents the Medea in love. Who, despite being betrayed and abandoned, is driven by her maternal instincts to protect her children.

The result is a powerful showcasing of internal conflict.

In the process, we see many sides of Medea — feminine and masculine; mother and lover, as past and present fuse into a powerful re-telling of the Greek original.

This is story told so audience’s can recognise its chilling themes. Director Hyoung-Taek Limb tells it with Korean traditional songs and singing styles, as he believes every line should have musicality or physicality. Monologues become songs. Korean traditional martial arts fuse with everyday movements, to amplify dialogues.

This play, which won the award for Best Direction at the 19th Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theatre in 2007, has been acclaimed for how it fuses sound, intensity and the director’s unique theatrical style.

Most importantly, it tells a story told a million times, and manages to make it fresh, thus connecting with audiences around the world with its unique brand of emotion, which transcends cultural barriers.

The Seoul Factory for the Performing Arts’ trains actors in the craft using physical language in a uniquely Korean way.

This play has been brought to Chennai with the support of InKo Centre, in association with the Korea Foundation and the Korea Arts Management Service.

Director’s Cut: Hyoung-Taek Limb

Although Medea and its Double is performed in Korean, it’s connected with audiences worldwide, from Romania to Chile. How does a production telling a story so complex overcome cultural and language divides?

We do not want to tell a story. We want to share Medea’s suffering, agony and her torn heart.

To convey that this is something that happens even today. Even though we rarely see women killing her children, we see people kill their siblings.

During those years of Japanese occupation, Korean War, and the days of military dictatorship, rape, murder, betrayal and violence were common words.

We wanted to not just tell a story, but share the emotion, sentiment, and physical language registered in our sensory system.

Do you see experimentation, with a strong cultural underpinning, as the cornerstone for theatre with universal appeal?

Yes, I do. With our experimentation or exploration of not creating, but discovering a certain language that can be understood regardless of the original language, religion or culture, we are getting somewhat close to where we are heading.

Yet, we respect the language that already exists.

Staging ‘Medea and its Double’ involved more than direction. You also had to translate and adapt the original text to Korean, and then convert it back into English for surtitles. Do you think anything gets lost in such a process?

The original text has its own beauty. However, some of the contents might have been too difficult to be understood among Koreans, since it dealt with numerous gods and goddesses and the names of the various regions. Therefore, I extracted the very essential lines from the original text and then composed the skeleton of the story with sound, song and movements, which substitute the original lines.

It would be better to say that we have given up the beauty of the text and some of the story details as well, instead of saying we lost something in the process. Yet, we gained a lot. We discovered the inner logic of the text and we tried to put the subtext into our voice and body.

It created a mood much stronger than the words.


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