It was a cold and frosty evening in New Malden1. But inside the Barton Green Theatre it was warm and cosy. From the outside, the building looks like a cricket pavilion, but if so the green itself would not be large enough for a proper game. Inside it’s a small, welcoming community theatre, with slightly battered armchairs in a side room which served as a bar.
The auditorium was packed — it was standing room only. As was to be expected, the ethnic mix of the audience was almost 100% Korean (I only counted 3 westerners including myself in the capacity crowd of about 70) with the age range spanning 6 to 60. The scarcity of non-Koreans in the audience was a shame as the performance was one of the most internationally-oriented I have witnessed in the course of a few years following Korean cultural events, by which I mean that a westerner did not need a cultural interpreter to understand what was going on.
Ko Jae-kyung is one of Korea’s leading mime artists and this programme represents his cumulative experience over his 20 year career. It is a tribute to his skill that he kept the audience entertained for over 90 minutes with no interval.
Dressed in a black and white striped top, with slightly less than full length trousers revealing black and white striped socks, Ko’s outfit recalled that of a circus clown as well as that of the most famous French mime artists (except that his face was without make-up). His routine had humour, poignancy and a little bit of vulgarity (it was the toilet humour which went down best with the youngsters present). There were some simple party tricks, and, as is almost inevitable with Korean stage performances, some compulsory audience participation. (I’ve learned from experience to avoid sitting at the end of a row or near the front). It’s well worth going to see him if you get the chance.
- 23 November