It was my first visit to Jeongdong Theater to watch <The Palace: Tale of Jang Noksu>. The first thing I noticed was the theater’s interior design which projected elements of classic and traditional beauty. As a production theater that produces traditional performances representative of Korea, Jeongdong Theater is historically significant as it was established to restore the legacy of Wongaksa Theater, the first modern theater in Korea, and to succeed its spirit of modern arts. This made it more meaningful to watch a performance at the theater. While waiting for the start of the performance, I noticed a surprising fact. 80% of the audience was made up of foreign viewers. Looking at the foreign viewers around me, I hoped that they would enjoy traditional Korean performing arts and spend a fulfilling time here.
Truthfully speaking, I was anxious before watching the performance. The show uses the character Jang Noksu as its subject and focuses on the reinterpretation and reassessment of this character. While I understand the intention of the emphasis on Jang Noksu’s life as an entertainer, the fact that the historical assessment of this character was not reflected as well as the absence of dialogues made it difficult to accept the reinterpretation of her presented by the theater.
I was wondering if they took into consideration of the fact that most of the viewers of <The Palace: Tale of Jang Noksu> were foreign viewers. There was a short activity which included audience participation at the start of the show. Although the general flow of the performance was a theatrical dance which expressed traditional performing arts, parts of the performance deviated from the traditional aspect and included some modern elements which made it entertaining to watch the performance. This performance which relied on theatrical dance included a variety of traditional Korean dances such as traditional gibang culture and traditional Korean games, royal court scenes etc. It presented Janggo dance, Gyobang dance, boating dance and other colourful traditional Korean dances. The 75-minutes long performance was a good opportunity to enjoy the charm of traditional Korean dances.
However, there was a big pity in the theater’s attempt at popularising and trying a new style of traditional Korean performances through the character Jang Noksu. Furthermore, I have some concerns over the fact that foreign viewers may view Jang Noksu as merely an entertainer of history who led an unfortunate life. The romance between Yeonsangun and Jang Noksu was depicted in the performance and their tragic ending with their piteous love story was shown. Specifically, the scenes showing petition scrolls presented by the royal subjects, with the suffering Yeonsangun surrounded the royal subjects wearing evil masks, may evoke feelings of pity and sympathy towards Yeonsangun. And together with Jang Noksu, the one who stayed beside him, embracing his sorrow and wounds, the show seemed to depict the lives of this unfortunate pair, expressed by their unfortunate destined love.
However, I think more thought should be placed into whether it is possible to watch this performance while temporarily leaving out the historical interpretation of the character, or while recognising this absence, focusing on the personal life of the character to reassess her and understand the performance,. Personally, as someone who loves and enjoys watching traditional performing arts, in this new attempt at popularising traditional performing arts, I think that there was not enough inspection and consideration given to the points mentioned above, so I was more disappointed by the performance. In the drama “The Rebel” released last year, although Jang Noksu’s life was a beautiful and spectacular one compared to the lives of the others, she was depicted as a woman who met her miserable end when she was stoned by the peasants. Recently, Jang Noksu has been judged based on a focus on her personal life and many works have portrayed her as an entertainer who dominated a period of history. Similarly, although <The Palace: Tale of Jang Noksu> tried to reinterpret this character from this point of view, I don’t think it can be easily accepted to see Jang Noksu being expressed in this way.
While watching <The Palace: Tale of Jang Noksu>, I felt the charm of the various traditional Korean dances which complemented traditional Korean tunes. It was a stage which showed a feast of gorgeous and colourful dances. Also, I was able to concentrate more on the dances since the performance is a non-verbal performance. It was a special time to enjoy the excitement and elegance of traditional performing arts. However, taking into the account that the performance is a creative production with the character Jang Noksu as the protagonist, I think it is difficult to accept the reinterpretation and reassessment of Jang Noksu presented in the show.
– This review was made in collaboration with ARTinsight.
Jeongdong Theater Tradition Series Performance <The Palace: Jang Noksu>
2018.04.05 ~ OPEN RUN
Tue – Sat 4PM (Closed on Sun & Mon)
Viewing age of 48 months and above
Choreographer_Jeong Hye Jin, Director_Oh Kyeong Taek, Writer_Kyeong Min Seon, Composer_Kim Cheol Hwan, Art Director_Park Dong Woo, Lighting Design_Sin Ho, Video Design_Jeong Jae Jin, Costume Design_Lee Ho Jun, Make-up_Kim Jong nn, Prop Design_Kim Sang Hee
http://jeongdongtheater.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/f33624d71d6ac63c665b2fccfbade07d_gsDek8qWuPSnWquTzrw59mHB9M.jpg472700jdadminhttp://jeongdongtheater.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/JEONGDONG06_SIGNATURE_ENGLISH.jpgjdadmin2018-11-28 15:30:372018-12-07 05:24:01[The Palace: Tale of Jang Noksu] A Unusual Femme Fatale, Jang Noksu