ENTERTAINMENT

[Herald Interview] Uijeongbu Music Theater Fest to open with tales of ‘The War’

By KH디지털2
  • Published : May 12, 2016 - 14:21
  • Updated : May 12, 2016 - 16:57

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I, the Chekhov International Theatre Festival unveiled in 2014 the dramatic Russian play “The War,” which pays homage to the devastation caused by combat.

The play premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival and has since toured to countries including Russia, Poland, Romania, France and Portugal.

Now gearing up for its Asia debut, “The War” is set to open this year’s 15th annual Uijeongbu Music Theatre Festival with performances on May 12 and 13. The musical play is a modernized adaptation of Homer’s “Iliad” and tells the tale of a young soldier preparing himself for war. 

Valery Shadrin, general director of the Chekhov International Theatre Festival, poses during an interview with The Korea Herald at Uijeongbu Arts Center on Thursday. (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald)

“Actually, there is no particular storyline to this production,” said Valery Shadrin, general director of the Chekhov International Theatre Festival, during an interview with The Korea Herald at the Uijeongbu Arts Center in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province, on Thursday.

“There is no real beginning, middle and end. The story is told in different fragments, kind of like a puzzle, giving glimpses of the different times during one man’s life as he prepares himself to go to war,” Shadrin added. “Our production is about any war. ... It’s about the devastating impact of war on a man who falls into its trap -- war can maul, ruin human life and soul, bereave the ability to sense, to love, to create. Life is nothing without all these, and that is why war is the worst of all calamities.” 

A scene from the Russian play “The War,” which will be staged as the opening performance at this year’s Uijeongbu Music Theatre Festival on May 13 and 14. (Uijeongbu Music Theatre Festival)

The very visual and grim tale of war is being put up in front of an Asian audience for the first time. Considering Korea’s history of colonial rule and war -- and with the two Koreas still technically at war to this day -- the director says he’s curious to see how the local audience will react to his production and whether or not the sentiments of the storyline will hit close to home.

“I’m not really sure how the Korean people will react to ‘The War’ and I am pretty anxious to find out,” Shadrin says. “But in my opinion, war involves everyone, it doesn’t matter if we are talking about Korea or any other part of the world because war affects all of us and is very relevant today.” 

A scene from the Russian play “The War,” which will be staged as the opening performance at this year’s Uijeongbu Music Theatre Festival on May 13 and 14. (Uijeongbu Music Theatre Festival)

“When we first started to work on this production years ago, the world was not in the same political climate as we are in now,” he continued. “Back then I could have never anticipated how much this performance reflects current society.    

The show’s opening scene begins in Paris, where a group of artists have an in-depth conversation about the philosophies of war. Some argue that war is a positive and unavoidable aspect of human life because it leads to renovation and revelation, while others see it as nothing but mayhem and destruction.

A scene from the Russian play “The War,” which will be staged as the opening performance at this year’s Uijeongbu Music Theatre Festival on May 13 and 14. (Uijeongbu Music Theatre Festival)

“It’s almost like you could think of war as poetic or tragic,” said the director. “As for how this production approaches this sensitive topic, I believe that it’s not theater’s job to give you the answers, rather to let the audience make up their own minds on a particular issue ... but no matter what your opinions of war are, I believe this show will touch the hearts of all the audience members.”

“The War” uses a combination of three languages -- Russian, English and Greek -- and will have Korean subtitles.

“The War” will be staged at the Grand Theater at Uijeongbu Arts Center in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province, on Friday and Saturday night. Ticket prices range from 20,000 won to 70,000 won. For more information on the festival and upcoming performances, visit http://2016eng.umtf.or.kr.

By Julie Jackson (juliejackson@heraldcorp.com)