South Corea


Les Grooms in South Korea – 11th to 15th September 1999


Seoul Theater Festival (11 and 12/9/99)

The Festival of Kwachon lets us down 15 days before our scheduled departure because the director of the festival who had been dealing with us – Mr. LIM - has been dismissed. Subsequent contact with his successor) is difficult and the tour is eventually cancelled despite everything having already been planned.

As a result the Festival of Seoul agrees to change dates at the last moment to help us out us. This festival is organised by a theatre director (Mr. Sohn Jin-Chaek) who really knows how to treat the artists well. Very warm and friendly reception.

We are the only street theatre company to be invited. The performances take place in a square in the middle of the student area. Playing here is difficult because it's very noisy (like everywhere in Seoul) and we have no amplification. We have to arrange for a nearby rock band to stop. It's very humid and warm (30°C), and our grooms' outfits are soaked from the second minute of the show.

Audience large, and very young.

We've translated part of the text into Korean and all the Grooms are practising their bits . The changing rooms are full of cardboard posters which are to be used for the Korean subtitles during the show.

The audience is very lively and enthusiastic in their reactions. They clap along in time to all the music (this is Mozart we're talking about!)

The passages we've translated into Korean are hugely successful.

The cultural counsellor, Mr. Taillandier, stays right till the end of the show, sitting on his presidential cushion (the rest of the audience sit on the ground).

At the end of each performance, dozens of young students come to ask us for autographs.

There are many hugely enjoyable moments during the shows. The Korean staff is fantastic. And there are numerous festive meals where we meet lots of other theatre artists. There are toasts aplenty, and we learn to say cheers! in Korean: " Kambe "!

The French Cultural Centre

We don't have a contract as such with the French Cultural Centre; rather, they act as a link organisation between us and the Korean organiser, in this particular case one of the 21 town halls in the district of Seoul (that of Socho, 400 000 inhabitants) .We give a performance in front of the city hall on Tuesday at 3 o'clock.. The audience is quite different from that of the Festival of Seoul: civil servants in ties, officials, passers-by, and many French children who have come with their two teachers (the nearby French school has closed for the occasion).

The mayor honours us with his presence; he sits, like Mr. Taillandier, on the presidential cushion in the first row.

The atmosphere is more formal and less relaxed. The people don't dare to come too close...We have the impression that the presence of the mayor is an inhibiting factor.

There are many journalists; even national television is there, and later there is an item several minutes long in the evening news. The photographers are equipped with small stepladders so they can see the action from above! We have to move them aside before we can play.

The spectators start smiling when we take the mayor out of the audience to play one of the characters in the show. He ends up with a bin-liner on his head, a moment which is hugely enjoyed by the crowd. In Korea, politicians are held in very high esteem, and the audience is astonished by our irreverence.

After the show, there is a very friendly cocktail reception held in the presence of the mayor (see enclosed photo) and the staff of the French Cultural Centre.


The Alliance Française in Pusan

Once again, a slightly unusual arrangement: this time it's a collaboration between the Alliance Française and the Paradise Beach Hotel (the city's biggest hotel). The hotel pays the accommodation, the food, and half of our wages, while the Alliance takes care of the other half of the wages and of transport from Seoul.

The reason for the event is the inauguration of a new wing of this big luxury hotel and our job is to welcome the guests and provide entertainment throughout the evening.

A huge contrast with the previous days: from the street to the opulent luxury of this hotel.

Our costumes are just right for the occasion!

Many guests, all very smartly dressed. Balloons are released, ribbons abound, and no expense is spared. The people of the Alliance Française have managed to arrange a separate reception room to welcome their guests while the Korean officials dine with great pomp.

We decide to conceal our singer among the guests and to use her as a "stooge". After having played two pieces, we ask the dinner guests if anyone amongst them is a singer. Finally, when it looks as though there will be no singer, our "stooge" appears and does her job so well that the public is genuinely confused as to whether she is a part of our group or not.

At the end of the meal, we perform in the hotel gardens.

The passers-by who are not part of the event gather behind the railings of the hotel to listen to the music.

We decide to go and join them on the beach and take the official guests with us. There's great excitement as all these people come together. The director of the Alliance is surprised to find himself dancing the Java with a Korean woman!

At this point we'd like to reiterate our gratitude to the AFAA which for the fourth time in 10 years has supported our work:

- In 1989: Bicentenary of the French Revolution in Houston (USA).

- In 1993: Inauguration of the Tel Aviv French Institute of and a tour of Israel.

- In 1994: Nogedaïdoge Festival ( Yokohama).

- In 1999: The South Korean Tour.

(We have just been contacted by the Festival of the Medina in Tunis for Christmas 1999. They received our contact details through the documentation which you sent them.)

A tour of South Korea is also foreseen for 2001: Mister Lim, the former director of the Festival of Kwachon wants to programme us in the Festival of Chonju, of which he is currently in charge.


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