Review: Korean Oedipus jumps to chorus

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The style of The Chorus; Oedipus harks back to ancient Greece where the chorus was the focus of the narrative.
The style of The Chorus; Oedipus harks back to ancient Greece where the chorus was the focus of the narrative.

If one of the roles of an arts festival is to present genre-blurring work, then the Auckland festival is doing its job with a show that opens this week. It's called The Chorus; Oedipus and is a contemporary Korean show that uses music, movement and drama to re-imagine Sophocles' Greek tragedy as a music theatre work.

Director Seo Jae-Hyung says the audience might think they're watching something very modern, but the style harks back to ancient Greece - even before Sophocles wrote Oedipus around 429BC - when a choir performed as a unified chorus and, gradually, individual members began to step forward. They became the first actors.

"Nobody has really tried to put on the reality of the Greek tragedy; it might seem like it's more modern than it actually is."

Jae-Hyung says rehearsals have focused on the company of sinewy and athletic players moving as one to create a truly unified performance.

"The process in making the performance is not that different to others, but the core and the essential issue that we are focusing on is how we unite to be as whole.

"There are various movements, choreography, dialogue and singing but the essential element is how we make those into one.

"The scenes are changing but throughout the play, the whole process isn't being cut up. It's like taking one breath for the hour and 40 minutes we are on stage so the audience don't lose the track of what we're trying to do. That's what we're focusing on and, hopefully if we achieve that, the New Zealand audience will enjoy the story we're trying to tell and the stories we're trying to bring to them."

The play is underscored by pianists performing live on four pianos and high-energy, in-the-moment choreography and harmonic vocals. The Chorus; Oedipus found fans in Singapore where it was one of the biggest hits of the 2014 Singapore International Arts Festival.

What: The Chorus; Oedipus (Performed in Korean with English subtitles)
Where: Rangatira, Q Theatre
When: March 17-20

- NZ Herald

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