‘Ham-ick’ play explores psychological turmoil of female Hamlet

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Sept 13, 2016 - 11:21
  • Updated : Sept 13, 2016 - 11:21

With this year marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, theater stages in Seoul have seen their fair share of tribute performances of some of the playwright’s most-beloved masterpieces this year.

In April, the Seoul Metropolitan Theatre opened its 2016 season with a production of “Henry IV: Part I and II,” the first time the play was performed in Seoul in 14 years.

Once again bringing back the works of Shakespeare this month, the Seoul theater troupe is gearing up to present “Ham-ick,” written by Kim Eun-seong and directed by Kim Gwang-bo. The play stands as a complete modern day reinterpretation of this classic tale of human tragedy.

Since its first staging in 1949, the classic “Hamlet” continues to be the most frequently performed of all Shakespearean plays in Korea.

A promotional image for the Seoul Metropolitan Theatre’s upcoming performance of “Ham-ick” (Sejong Center)

However, in a bold and daring move to completely overhaul the iconic role, “Ham-ick” is set in present-day Seoul with a female in the lead role of Hamlet under the concept “a woman born as Hamlet but who dreams of being Juliet.” 

“Although ‘Ham-ick’ starts out like Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ it actually takes a dramatic new twist,” said playwright Kim, during a press rehearsal at the Sejong Center in Seoul on Thursday.

“It does tell some of the stories of Hamlet, but for the most part, it’s just an unlikely love story,” she added. “The main character is a woman with a lot of emotional and psychological turmoil. Although she dreams of one day meeting a handsome young man, this is still not enough to fulfill her dark, emotional anguish.”

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the lead character learns his father was murdered by his uncle, who goes on to marry his mother. The new Korean play takes the original psychological struggles of Hamlet and reinterprets this mental anguish via a woman named Ham-ick, with an alter ego mirroring the fair Juliet who wants to know true love. 

Actress Choi Na-rah (front) and Lee Ji-yeon rehearse scenes from “Ham-ick” during a press rehearsal at the Sejong Center in Seoul on Thursday. (Sejong Center)

Crazed for two decades by rumors that her mother, who supposedly committed suicide, was actually killed by her father and stepmother, her mental agony takes on a new twist when a new man is introduced into her life.

The upcoming staging of “Ham-ick” will star Choi Nah-ra, Lee Ji-yeon, Kang Shin-gu, Yoon Nah-mu, Hwang Sung-dae and Park Ki-deok.

The performance will be held from Sept. 30 to Oct. 16 at the Sejong M Theater in Central Seoul. Ticket prices range from 20,000 won ($18) to 50,000 won. For more information, call (02) 399-1000 or visit www.sejongpac.or.kr.

By Julie Jackson (juliejackson@heraldcorp.com)