Thursday, 11 September 2014

Jeongdong Theater's MISO Baebijang-jeon

On my way to the Jeongdong Theater behind the Deoksugung (Deoksu Palace), I chanced upon the Changing of the Guards ceremony, which is a colorful mini-parade of Korean soldiers in their traditional costumes. I passed by a donut shop to get a drink near the area before I headed to the venue.
                                   (My MISO ticket courtesy of the 
                         Korea Tourism Organization)
The colorful ceremony was actually a prelude to what I was about to watch at the Jeongdong Theater. The soldiers were in their colorful traditional costumes, and so were the actors in the show.  

MISO is a 70-minute, non-verbal performance telling the story of a government secretary named Bae Geol-deok-swe during the Choseon Dynasty. He was reputed to be faithful and loyal to his wife, and was sent to a post in Jeju Island, only to give in to the seduction of Ae-rang, the prettiest woman on the island, who also happened to be....married. 
                (The changing of the king's bodyguards ceremony)
             (He'll represent the Choseon Dynasty in archery 
                         at the 2014 Asian Games)

In short, MISO is a story of a government official who had extra-marital affairs (very common nowadays!), with his journey (to Jeju) and seduction (by Ae-rang) set into traditional music and dancing. Since the costumes were all traditional and the accompanying music was played using Korean traditional instruments, the early minutes of the show reminded me of the impressive performance I saw at the National Theater of Korea a year ago. 
                                                         (Jeongdong Theater)

For international tourists, watching MISO is a way to experience a non-verbal Korean performance showcasing colorful Korean hanboks and dance. 

I also appreciate the English, Chinese and Japanese translations on the screens on both sides of the stage, enabling non-Korean speaking audience to understand the story. Since it was a holiday, the audience not only included international tourists and foreigners, but also locals.
       (Screens with translation on both sides of the stage)

Though the choreography of the dances was simple (no acrobatics and leg-breaking splits here), the dancers and the props used were able to give life to the whole MISO story, although I would have wanted the main actor to have given more facial expressions. The only thing I could remember from his face was his overuse of BB cream.
It was actually Ae-rang, the seductress, and the courtesans who dazzled on stage. The dancer portraying Ae-rang was pretty as she should be, but so were the courtesans (although I could clearly see some chin implants from where I was seated). With their beautiful and colorful hanboks, intricate head-dress and their graceful dancing, these female actors were the ones who carried the show.
             (The cast dancing with some audience members 
                                      after the show)
After the show, the cast and the audience danced and posed for photographs at Jeongdong Theater's main entrance. I think this is the only performance where I saw the ensemble danced, not just mingle and posed for photos, with the audience. This was a very good way for the audience to remember the show, and a better way to even promote it. I wasn't in the mood to dance that afternoon. Ha-ha-ha!

So, if you want to see Ae-rang's dance of seduction, or want to get a glimpse of Jeju Island (watch out for the artistic Mt. Halla backdrop on the stage), or even how Secretary Bae threw up on a boat on his way to Jeju Island, you should drop by Jeongdong Theater for this show.
Jeongdong Theater is accessible from Exit 1 or Exit 12 of the City Hall Station.

Here's a link to the performance details:

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