Dance, physical theatre

Assembly Hall

12.00 pm (run ends 29th Aug; not 22nd)


It’s hard to describe this piece, and the handy synopsis we were given could have done with being edited by someone more familiar with the English language – it promised  “Both similar and different works about heaven, from Eastern and Western cultures, presented in a new creative way… The play based on the form of Gut, the struggle between this world and the world of the dead.  This Gut makes the regrettable souls have fun and leave this life without any lingering affection towards this world.”  After consulting the internet, I can add this: Gut is a Korean shaman ritual, a private or a communal ceremony which can have a number of purposes – in the case of this show, a ritual designed to pave someone’s way to the afterworld.


The performance was a extraordinary mixture of deeply moving ritual and almost slapstick comedy: deeply serious and heartfelt mourning rituals and songs surrounded a pantomimic, almost vaudevillian playlet in which a man made advances towards a woman then, after apparently killing her and bringing her back to life, deserted her for another woman… the mourning rituals were then resumed.  This is where cultural differences really come into play – my complete ignorance of shamanic ritual and thought left me at a loss and trying to make sense of what I was seeing.


The set was extremely simple: Solemn rituals surrounding grieving beautifully portrayed: White-clad solo singer [?the shaman] singing moves among black-clad actors who play different parts; excellent movement skills and mime, fascinating singing,very simple and effective; minimal ‘scenery’, just the curtained gateway through which the shaman appeared and the dead woman left; clever use of props to convey different people and things [streamer ‘fans’, boat, black veil and white cloth]


Shaman linking the dead with the spirits of the world – ?linking the living, too?  Sing the soul into the afterlife, help it to let go and pass through/over; grieving – those left behind? The dead one?  Sending the soul on its way in the white boat; tearing a path through the river


?the ‘pantomime’ showing the dead woman that there’s nothing to keep her here, the man worthless; what about the children?


Good visuals, clever costume changing and mask work, special applause for the whirling drummer with streamer on his hat.  The audience loved the pantomime, and the inclusion of the audience [is there a doctor in  the house?]; I found it jarred against the simplicity and deep truth of the grieving and the ritual of the opening and closing parts.  Better understanding/ explanation could have helped me make sense of it?  Cultural clash/ Misunderstanding


Mary Woodward