Friday, March 21, 2014

Kolleen Park's Kaboom And Becoming a K-Performance Supporter

My return to regular blogging has also meant a foray into a group run by the Korean Tourism Organization known as the K-Performance Supporters - a large number of people from all over the world who in return for free tickets to performances in Korea agree to write about them, share their experiences and support Korean performances. Last night was the opening event of their "third season" and I, along with a horde of other theatre fans, was invited to down to Jongno for food and theatrical fun.

The evening started out near Jongno-3-ga at the Jongno Cinecore building. This has been the home of Korean non-verbal performances for many years and is conveniently located next to a branch of Peggy Pie, so one can fulfil one's thirst for entertainment and hunger for puff pastry. It's a quick walk from Jongno-3-ga station and just across the road from Insa-dong and Tapgol Park, so even though I arrived a little too early there was plenty to do...

The first event of the evening was a slap-up feast at VIPS. We were allowed to buffet to our heart's content (with an hour time limit) and had free reign to sit wherever we chose. I ended up on a lovely table filled with bloggers from the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, France and Indonesia and it was great to sit, chat and make new acquaintances. 

Once dinner was done, we made our way up to the fourth floor where we were given a ticket each and had the chance to get our photos taken using the special Kaboom machines. Using pictures of the performers as a background you were able to take snaps of yourself and your new friends that would later be used in the show and have them emailed to you (though as of now, almost twenty four hours later my email has yet to arrive...). Once our images had been recorded it was off into the theatre for the welcoming ceremony and a very welcome goodie bag (filled with a K-Performance pamphlet, a smartphone holder thingy, a snazzy three colour pen and a usb drive. Thanks KTO!).

Speeches were made, prizes were given to the best bloggers of last season and the person who cheered the loudest got two free tickets to see Fanta-stick (a "Fusion Gukak Music Show"). Thanks to my years of training as a professional loudmouth I succeeded in nabbing the tickets for myself and I look forward to seeing what "fusion gukak music" mixed with fizzy drinks and sticks looks like.

Finally it was show time and we all sat down and waited for "Kaboom! 케쎄라쎄라" to start. Directed by Kolleen Park, the show brings together four different groups for your performing pleasure (all quotes taken from the Kaboom pamphlet):

Morning of Owl - "World's number 1 B-boy team"
Va Va Voom - "Female trio that touches the soul, fusion Korean classical music"
Magic Trunk - "Storytelling magic show"
PID (Performance in the Darkness) - "You can't take your eyes off it, black light laser performance!"

The seventy minute show is comprised of five minute sets where each group get to show off their own skills, sometimes working together, sometimes on their own. It's a little like Kolleen's own Korea's Got Talent, except there are no sob stories or red buttons to press if you don't enjoy the acts. Thanks to each sequence being relatively short, you don't have to worry if one particular performance doesn't float your boat, but at the same time there are no extended sequences meaning you never quite have time to settle into any of the four groups.

Morning of Owl offered some impressive b-boy skills that were sometimes combined with more traditional music and occasionally veered towards contemporary dance. They are a talented bunch of boys and I think there's a lot of potential in mixing traditional Korean movements and music with the frenzied spins, kicks and body pops of breakdancing. Hopefully they'll get their own full show at some point so we can see how far they can take their ideas.

Va Va Voom gave good performances on traditional zithers and drums, switching instruments, playing to the crowd and performing well, but they were drowned out by the recorded K-pop instrumentals accompanying them. I would have liked to be able to hear them better, but perhaps I need to just head to the National Gugak Centre whenever I want my fill of jjangu and gayageum.

Magic Trunk managed to combine a simple tragic story with some old tricks done well. Nothing new or original for magic fans, but they pulled off each trick with panache and it's always great to see quick changes and other flashy routines done with style.

PID were the showstoppers. Without a doubt the most exciting team of the night, they offered just two dance sequences but stole the show with their fabulous choreography, amazing lighting and astonishingly good timing. Their final sequence of dancing day-glo robots brought the house down and I would have been happy to spend the whole 70 minutes in their company. PID alone are worth the ticket price (though in my case I didn't have to pay).

There's no story or real flow to the show, just different acts doing their thing. The Kaboom pamphlet proclaims "Forget about stories. Enjoy pure pleasure beyond your imagination" and there were indeed moments of pure pleasure in my evening, though I do wish it had been a more cohesive sequence of acts and not just a series of unrelated incidents.

If you're looking for a fun night at the theatre that doesn't require much thought, but will leave you buzzing, then "Kaboom! 케쎄라쎄라" is the show for you. Go for the "black laser light show" and enjoy whatever other bits take your fancy.

"Kaboom! 케쎄라쎄라" is on Thursday and Friday at 8.00pm, Saturday at 3.00pm and 7.00pm and Sunday at 3.00pm. More info can be found on their website, but the English section didn't work when using chrome on my mac... For tickets and some information in English head here. Tickets range from 40,000 won to 80,000 won, but you can get 50% off until the 30th of April thanks to K-Performance's special deal.

I'm looking forward to other events with the K-Performance Supporters and getting a chance to mix, mingle and chat with people I wouldn't otherwise ever get to meet, but I do have one thing to ask all of them and anyone who wants to go to the theatre in Korea. If there is an announcement before the show (in this case in both English and Korean) asking you to turn off your phones and not take pictures, then please put your cameras away and make sure that your phone is switched off. Last night I sat almost at the very back of the theatre, and I kept being distracted by some audience members who tried to take pictures or were checking their phones throughout the show. The ushers were rushing around trying to tell them to stop and my eyes were continually drawn to the little rectangles of brightness within the dark auditorium. It was only a few people, but it was enough to diminish my enjoyment of the show.

I can also tell you that the hard working teams on stage could probably see each and every person who used a camera or a phone. I'm a theatre performer and when I'm under bright lights on stage I can still see every single person who choose to disobey the rules and use a device. It's off-putting, annoying and is the bane of theatre professionals everywhere. We want to give you the best show we can, but when there are distractions like that in the audience it makes the job of entertaining you much harder. I urge everyone reading this to please follow each productions' wishes and if they ask you to turn off your phones and not take photos, do as they ask.

Thank you Korea Tourism Organization, the K-Performance Supporters and the cast and crew of "Kaboom! 케쎄라쎄라" for making it a night to remember and I look forward to seeing more theatre this year!

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