Veteran actress Lee Hye-young returns in Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’

By KH디지털2
  • Published : May 26, 2016 - 15:08
  • Updated : May 26, 2016 - 17:20

The much-beloved veteran actress Lee Hye-young is returning to the stage in a play about the pangs and cruelties of a life in theater, breaking a long absence from the stage.

Lee made a brief return to the local theater spotlight in 2012 after a 13-year-absence, joining the cast of “Hedda Gabler.” It was well received -- Lee snagged the best actress awards at both the Dong-A Theatre and Korea Theater Awards.

Now in her first theater production in four years, the actress will tackle the lead role of Irina Arkadina -- a famed, yet middle-aged actress who is well past her prime -- in the National Theater Company of Korea’s upcoming modern-day rendition of Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull.”

The character of Arkadina is a role that she had rejected four times in the past.

“Requests for me to take on the role of Arkadina were offered many times, but I always turned them down,” said Lee during a press conference held at Myeongdong Theater on Thursday. “This time around, I only accepted the offer because of (the play’s artistic) director Kim Yoon-chul.”

Promotional image for the National Theater Company of Korea’s upcoming production of Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull.” (National Theater Company of Korea)

“Back in 1990, I read the ‘The Seagull’ and thought to myself the character of Nina (the protagonist) was very appealing and I came to relate to her. But I could not at all relate or come to like the character of Arkadina,” said the actress. “However, director Kim Yoon-chul persuaded me to read the play once again and it was then that I started to see the appeal of Arkadina. It feels like I am finally getting to my homework that I have been pushing off for so long.”

Chekhov is considered one of the greatest Russian writers and has often been referred to as the best playwright since Shakespeare. “The Seagull” is inarguably one of the writer’s masterpieces and deemed the most emblematic of all his works.

The story tells the tale of Arkadina, a famous actress who goes to watch a play directed by her son Konstantin, a passionate aspiring playwright who has created a production that attempts to tackle a new theatrical form. Finding it ridiculous and incomprehensible, Arkadina openly mocks the play, leading it to end abruptly. The disrespect opens the floodgates of drama and future discourse between the mother and son and their loved ones.

“What I tried to do with this production is to have a new and very fresh view on this wonderful classical text, and to see it from the perspective of our time today,” said Romania-native Felix Alexa, the play’s producer.   

Promotional image for the National Theater Company of Korea’s upcoming production of Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull.” (National Theater Company of Korea)

“At the same time, (I also hope audiences) find all the poetic elements that make ‘The Seagull’ such a realistic play,” Alexa continued. “It’s a play about the magic of life and the magic of theater, as well as the cruelty of life and the cruelty of theater.”

The upcoming play also stars local talents Oh Young-soo, Lee Seung-chul, Lee Chang-jik, Lee Jung-mi and Lee Myong-haeng.

English subtitles for the production will be provided every Thursday and Sunday.

“The Seagull” will be staged at the Myeongdong Theater from June 4 to 29 (except on Tuesdays), with ticket prices ranging from 20,000 won ($17) to 50,000 won. The play runs approximately 150 minutes with no intermission. For more information, visit www.ntck.or.kr or call 1644-2003. 

By Julie Jackson (juliejackson@heraldcorp.com)