The enigmatically titled Bicycle finishes this weekend. The play is performed by a western cast, in the English translation by Kim Ah-jeong and RB Graves, in Camden People’s Theatre, an intimate space (audience capacity around 40 I would reckon) near Euston Station.
Oh Tae-Seok is known for making the audience work, skipping parts of the plot to make the viewers fill in the gaps themselves. This production helps the audience in some of that work, but without spoon-feeding them, and with only one deviation from the text, as far as I can see: for a western audience, it was helpful to have the play start with the horrific incident from the Korean war, as it sets the context which may be more obvious to a Korean audience. In Oh’s text, the massacre is played out at the end, and before then is only touched upon obliquely with references to a memorial ceremony and a description of the self-mutilation of one of the survivors. The central part of the play explores, by way of flashback, the events that unfolded one evening in the recent past (I think the play is set in the 70s) which led to the protagonist (a son of one of the massacre victims?) needing to take time off work. Having seen the play last night, and subsequently reading the text, I’m still not sure what happened, so I’m aiming to go back tomorrow to see if there’s an answer. But even without knowing exactly what happened, it’s still a powerful experience.
And they sure have some frisky cows in Korea.