Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Fanta-Stick: A Korean Performance At NH Art Hall

                       (My Fanta-Stick ticket courtesy of 
                         Korea Tourism Organization)

NH Art Hall is the only performance venue I have been to that's connected to an exit of a subway station. I didn't need to get out of Seodamun Stations' Exit 5 to find it.

There's an entrance right there into the theater before the escalators. And there's even a store selling agricultural products in case you want to get some groceries after watching the show.

Fanta-Stick is promoted as  a live 'gugak' musical. 'Gugak' means Korean traditional music. But the music played at the performance was not only gugak. I'd say more than half of the music played at the performance was recorded contemporary and modern.

During the show, I actually tried to figure out how was the title Fanta-Stick connected to the concept of the whole show. The story was about a man and a woman banished from the heavens for not having been able to take care of a sacred drum and flute, with the latter ending up lost and later found in a car repair shop. 

The family running the shop were humans and knew how to use percussion, while the banished family were ghosts and could play the Korean traditional instruments. I guess the title just borrowed 'fantasy' to describe the fictional story, and 'stick', to describe all the drumming.

The show was a mix of, well, Korean traditional music, dancing (with a lot of head tosses by the female performer with long hair!), slaptick comedy (for the kids), modern sounds and a lot of car parts. There was also a portion for audience participation where, that night, a female audience member was asked to come on stage and had her head beaten by a stick several times. Of course, she was wearing a helmet. And she got a gift for her bravery.

Too bad. A few days back, I watched MISO and couldn't help but compare the two shows, which actually bank on traditional Korean music and instruments. While MISO went all out on the traditional, from costumes to story, to music, Fanta-Stick tried to mix it with modern, making it look and sound ill-conceived and messy.

But perhaps, to an international tourist or to a kid, Fanta-Stick would be a funny novelty. But for it to last long, one needs creativity to make it stick. For now, the bus loads of Chinese tourists watching the show fill in the seats of NH Art Hall. They got a captive audience, so to speak. 

I actually saw excerpts of this show at the Korea In Motion showcase in Myeongdong during the chuseok holidays and I wasn't impressed at all. It was just a group of performers drumming and plucking their instruments with nary a concept but to produce noise. Even the playing of Korean instruments that time sounded discordant. 

But luckily, my ticket that night was courtesy of the Korea Tourism Organization, or I would have regretted buying a ticket, or wasting my time sitting there for 80 minutes wondering how many calories I could have burned if I spent those minutes jogging along the Han River park. Ha-ha-ha!

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to the Korean performance I'll watch next. Perhaps, there'll be more creativity this time.

But if you and your kids still want to watch this show, here's the show's website:


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