Echo

“The memory of a man who studies the nature, origin and transformation of sound. The urban fable of ‘A Girl Reading a Book’ is explored in juxtaposition with the image of an island and memories of a rural girl.”

There were some absolutely beautiful moments of movement, colour and sound in the piece. I kept thinking ‘what a shame it is I don’t know enough Korean to understand what the dialogue means!’ The piece was based around a man (a Writer, going by the prominence of a typewriter) whose corporate life was stripped from him in the form of briefcase, jacket, tie and shoes, by three hooded figures in black. I thought his glasses might get taken too, but they didn’t. He was surrounded by voices from the ether, unable to decide which to listen to.

The orchestra consisted of a Clarinet, Trumpet, Xylophone and Cello. They played abstract, low, unpredictable music throughout the piece, which was beautifully enchanting. There was a soprano singer, dressed beautifully in white, who came in and out of the piece, also talking, questioning and tormenting the Writer in a sing-song voice. I wondered if she were his muse. Or his lover. Or both?

Through almost the entire piece sat a figure in white, on part of a park bench that had been sawn in two, a book in her hand. She wore white ballet shoes, a white body suit, a white jacket, white wig, white hat and gloves and had a white-painted face. She sat still as a statue until the Writer had taken her hat and book in a moment of despair. She took off her jacket, revealing a beautiful slender body, and danced a wonderful contemporary balletic piece. She had a moment of brief contact with the Writer, before returning to curl up on the bench.

The same three black figures danced with lengths of red, blue and yellow cloth around the Writer, which they used eventually to tie up the writer, almost like a maypole. They pulled him one way and another until he collapsed, tortured, centre stage. They covered him in a white shroud, put a papish pale paper-bag hat on his head and left a large bell by his head. The three figures in black entered in a procession, holding another length of red silk aloft, the middle of the three carrying the female statue on his shoulders, the red silk wrapped once around her waist. She knealt and lifted the shroud, as if mourning. The Writer rose, ringing the bell, tossing his shroud over his left shoulder. The movement and sound grew to a frenzy until the female statue beat the Writer to the floor with a bouquet of white flowers. To end the piece, the Writer returned to the stage in his original costume. The two halves of the broken bench were pushed together, and he sat next to the statue in white, who was now composed once again. He returned her book to her hands and gave her a little box. Finally, she spoke. He laid his head on her shoulder and she opened the box – sweet music began to play and confetti fell upon the pair. It was an enchanting piece, I only wish I had been able to understand the dialogue.

Originally written on Sunday 9th October 2011, and published on Tumblr.

Having thought back to this piece several times over the last (almost) two years, and having written a dissertation on Korean Shamanism, I am pretty sure there are several references to the female Mudangs (priestesses) of Korea. The lengths of primary colour fabric relate to some Musok rituals; the three figures in black suggest the idea of unseen beings from the spirit world; the drawings in my notebook include a hat, traditionally worn by Mudangs (both male and female) during Kut rituals. I only wish I had known all of this before seeing the piece, so I could have fully understood the relationship between the traditional rural practices and the modern practice of theatre.

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