What makes “Shear Madness” ― one of the longest-running plays in the world ― interesting is arguably its ending with almost-limitless possibilities.
The crime drama’s ending is spontaneous, requires the audience’s participation, and always turns out to be different for each and every show. The German play, which deals with a mysterious murder case, is back for its second run in Seoul. It was first premiered back in 1963.
The play takes place in a hair salon, which is owned by a gay hairdresser named George. After George and his flirty assistant Suji welcome two customers, one a wealthy housewife and the other an antique dealer, the landlady of the shop gets murdered upstairs.
|A scene from “Shear Madness.” (Musical Heaven)|
Up until the discovery of murder, which is first witnessed by Suji, the viewers get to learn a little about each of the four characters.
The wealthy housewife Bo-hyeon is married to a Samsung executive, while Suji seems to be in a secret relationship with the good-looking and reserved antique dealer Jun-su. George absolutely loathes the landlady, especially the classical music she listens to upstairs.
Throughout the first half of the show, the four individuals, except Bo-hyeon, go in and out of the salon several times. One goes out to hit the bathroom, while the other does the same to throw the garbage out. The show sees its turning point when a detective shows up and announces that it is one of the four who killed the building’s landlady with a pair of scissors.
Upon the discovery of the landlady’s body, the audience is asked to participate in the process of solving the crime, trying to figure out who is the murderer among the four characters in the salon.
The viewers are requested to ask questions to the four characters, and the actors answer spontaneously on the spot. This, ironically, creates much humor and laughs, because sometimes the questions don’t make sense and actors have a hard time thinking of their answers.
Though the original play is German, director Byeon Jeong-ju added Korean flavors to the show. He does this by indirectly criticizing and even making fun of the current Lee Myung-bak administration.
The characters casually mention the Four Major Rivers Refurbishment Project as well as the famous Somang Presbyterian Church, which is known as President Lee’s main source of socio-political connections. When the wealthy Bo-hyeon is asked to stay for the investigation, she refuses acts as if she deserves special treatment, saying, “Hey! I go to Somang Presbyterian Church!”
Watching “Shear Madness” is almost like playing a life simulation game, such as Princess Maker; it is the audience’s participation that ultimately decides the ending of the show, which reveals who in fact killed the landlady. And knowing there are two or three more possible endings is what attract the audience for the second viewing, the play’s promoters said.
All of the four potential criminals are interesting individuals with conflicted desires, and every possible ending, regardless of who the real murderer is for the day, gives much psychological depth and drama.
“Shear Madness” is currently on an open run at Daehangno Culture Space Feeling 2 in Hyehwa-dong, Seoul. All tickets cost 30,000 won. For more information call (02) 744-4334.
By Claire Lee (email@example.com