views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

La Chun Hyang
The Peacock Theatre
19th July 2012


With queues stretching out of the Peacock Theatre's foyer and onto the street around the corner, the Kim Geung Soo Company's adaptation of La Chun Hyang certainly didn't fail to pique interest. Whether those waiting to get in were ballet aficionados, or simply curious Londoners like ourselves, we all wanted to see something a bit different and Korean ballet certainly fitted the bill.

La Chun Hyang, for the uninitiated, is based on the famous Korean folk tale, Chunhyang-jeon, an old-fashioned love story between Chun Hyang and Mong Ryong, in a Shakespearian vein. The two protagonists fall in love at first sight but are kept apart through class struggles and corruption, plus a good dose of mistaken identity, yet manage to reunite at the end.

In this hour-long modernisation, the emphasis is very much on the love story, with class issues less integral. Rather than chosen to be a courtesan by a cruel and greedy lord, the beautiful Chun Hyang is plucked from obscurity to become a star by a talent show producer, Hak Do. Here, it is the producer who is the villain of the piece, forcing himself on Chun Hyang despite her protestations of loyalty to her lover, Mong Ryong. By greatly condensing the story and shifting the setting to a modern city, the choreographer, Kim Geung Soo, makes it more current and relatable - a perfect introduction to ballet.

Both Korean and western influences are obvious throughout the performance. The male dancers who open the show wear simple modern clothes, but there are nods to traditional culture, with beautiful paper costumes also featured.

There are some moments where the dancers do not all perform in perfect synchronisation, but this is forgiveable as the dancing on the whole is quite fluid and a genuine pleasure to watch. In particular, the final scenes where the principal dancers reconnect with each other and reaffirm the strength of their feelings are compelling and deeply emotional. At one point, the music stops and the audience, quietly enthralled, watches as Chun Hyang and Mong Ryong dance together. The entire audience holds their breath and the only sound in the entire theatre is a creaking from the stage itself as the dancers roll on it.

We may not know much about ballet, being more seasoned theatre-goers, however we certainly would welcome another opportunity to see the Kim Geung Soo Company and hope they make a speedy return to the London arts scene.

La Chun Hyang was performed twice on 19th July 2012 at the Peacock Theatre as a special event sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Korean Culture and Information Service, Asiana Airlines, Chun-Ang University and Surim Cultural Foundation.

Nearest tube station: Holborn (Central, Piccadilly)

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