Review: Oh! Youran – performance at V&A Korean day, 27 May

by Philip Gowman on 2 June, 2006 updated 16 December, 2017

in Event reports and reviews | Expos and Festivals | KACC London Korean Festival | Korean traditional music | Musicals | Physical theatre & mime

Oh! Youran still (1)I’m sorry I didn’t manage to get to all of the performance of Oh! Youran. For me, Saturday afternoon is not the best time for a theatrical performance, but I guess given the generosity of the V&A in hosting this event in their lecture theatre, certain compromises have to be made in terms of logistics.

Alice Bennell from the “Show DJG on the BBC” campaign blog made it to the whole day, and has got a great video record of the occasion. Go visit. There’s also a brief account on the Londonist, including a snap of the instrumental encores.

I sneaked in for the last half hour of Oh! Youran, on which basis I wish I’d been able to get to all of it. It had just about everything you could want: story, dance, music, costumes, variety of mood. The like most opera plot summaries, the story printed in the brochure didn’t make much sense. The story involved two childhood friends doing the civil service exams and their varying fortunes. All that matters is that there’s romance, comedy, nudity, tragedy and jollity, and everyone lives happily ever.

It was a shame that the subtitling technology just wasn’t working. The technology was a Powerpoint presentation (or maybe something a tad more complicated) projected onto a big screen on the stage from the control box at the back of the auditorium. Simple enough, you would think, but the words kept crawling off the edge of the screen; the operator wasn’t really following what was happening on stage so the translation didn’t keep up with the action; and actually most of the time I was there either the screen was totally blank or, distractingly, we saw a projection of the computer desktop with the operator frantically trying to fix the settings. A pity.

Oh! Youran still (2)In all, however, as an entertainment experience I would rate it higher than the Korean Breeze show a few days earlier. The V&A show might not have had the benefit of a living human treasure playing for us, and of course it’s a great privilege to get the opportunity to hear these great musicians that were performing at the Bloomsbury Theatre, but to the uneducated ear such as mine it’s difficult to distinguish between the capabilities of a premier league and a first division player, so the variety and visuals aspects come into consideration, which is where the dramatic aspects of the V&A event won out.

After the end of the play (and unfortunately, it seems, much to the consternation of the V&A staff, as closing time was rapidly approaching) we were treated to a couple of encores from the band. Extremely energetic, lively, toe-tapping stuff, with the percussion section given carte blanche to let rip. Great fun. More please.

Thanks to the V&A and Beth McKillop for hosting this.

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