Hmm… turns out on Saturday afternoon everyone wants to go to Geochang…
Arrived at Nambu Bus Terminal at just after 2.00 and all tickets were sold out except for just a couple left for the 5.50 bus. I love a four hour wait, really, I do.
I’ve found shelter in a local Cafe Bene. There’s free wifi and a power outlet, so at least I can get some work done and still have enough battery for the bus ride. Three and a half hours of joyous motorway adventures.
If I’m really lucky I’ll arrive for the 9.50 performance of The Tempest tonight. I would like to be lucky. I shall be crossing my limbs and touching pieces of wood on an hourly basis.
If you understand Korean and you enjoy reading stories about hairy white actors living in Korea, then be sure to pick up a copy of next week’s Newsweek Korea. One of their senior editors assures me that an article I wrote will be published in next weeks edition…
Also it seems as if I’ve landed myself a regular spot on TBSeFM’s morning show “1013 Main Street”. If all goes well then you should be able to catch me every Wednesday morning just after 11.30 talking about things, experiences, places and people that you’ll only find in Korea.
If you have any topic suggestions I’d love to hear them…
That’s about it for my media involvement this week, now I just have to find a way to get my own show on KBS tv and my domination of the Korean airwaves will be complete.
Well, this has to be pretty much the worst flooding in Seoul I can remember. Other areas in Korea are often hit hard, but the past 24 hours has been horrible. Luckily I’ve been indoors for most of it and our 3rd floor villa apartment in Itaewon remains safe from any sort of waterlogged nightmare.
It has been a rather odd sort of day. I have left our apartment for the grand total of three minutes and apart from that have spent the day sat in front of the computer trying to retranslate, reedit and generally sort out The Tempest.
There have been a fair few changes over the past couple of days, some new scenes have come and gone, but stayed just long enough for me to translate them and then delete them.
The Edinburgh International Festival is two and a half weeks away. There is much to be done, but it will all be ready.
Though I will be needing the comfort of homemade lasagna and beer this evening…
Your life is so amazing! I'm so excited that you have a Tumblr now! Do you have anything on the internet explaining how you started acting in Korea? I'm in awe that you're going to the Edinburgh festival~ Do you go every year?
Thanks. I’m excited to have a Tumblr now. So many pictures of lion cubs and Neil Gaiman quotes to reblog!
I don’t believe there is anything on the internet explaining how I started acting in Korea (though I’ve done the odd magazine/radio/tv interview about it), so I might as well fling my story to the Tumblr hordes.
Sit back and Paul Ajosshi will tell you a tale of soju, suspenders and Shakespeare…
My first proper contact with Korea came back in 1998 in my third year at University. I was one of the lucky 90 people or so who got to take Middlesex University’s now defunct BA Acting course. 30 people per year, classes eight hours a day - five days a week with some really spiffy teachers (After the class of ‘99 began their training the university decided that we were all rather too expensive and so cut the whole damn thing, but did allow us to finish out our three years of lavish drama schoolesque training).
Our first show of our third year was Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle, helmed by an Australian director who was ably assisted by a Korean directing student named Gina. I got my chance to appear naked in a bath of cold water in front of three hundred people and also downed a wine bottle filled with blackcurrant cordial in one shot as a Bandit leader of sorts… It was all good clean dramatic fun and I thought no more about working with Gina until a few months later when she accosted me in a corridor and asked if I wanted to be in her student production.
I said yes and for the next few weeks we rehearsed and put together a small scale production of Tae (Lifecord) at a fringe theatre somewhere near St Pancras station in central London. The play was a rather odd historical tragedy concerning the rise of King Sejo and the poisoning of his nephew. It had been written by a Korean playwright called Oh Tae-sok, who I had never heard of. I think we performed Tae for a few nights, maybe a week and then that was it. I graduated and went off into the wilds of theatrical unemployment and Gina went back to Korea.
A few months later a friend of mine put me in touch with a Korean stage design student at St. Martin’s College. He knew I had gone to high school in Japan (another story for another time) and thought I might enjoy the production she wanted to put on. Happy to be offered acting work I jumped at the chance and ended up doing a three person show based on the Korean fairytale of Princess Bari and the Water of Life. Again, it was lots of fun and I didn’t think anything would come of it…
I was to be proved very, very, wrong.
Cut to 2000, Gina was back in London, but we had lost contact. However, she happened to meet a certain Korean stage design student and she procured my phone number, called me up and asked me if I fancied doing another production of Tae. One month in London, one month in Seoul. Expenses and airfare paid (salary non-existent). I thought - “Seoul? Korea? Why not?” The idea of doing an international tour was incredible. I’d never been to Korea and I didn’t really know much about the place, but I was ready for an adventure.
So we began rehearsals somewhere in Islington with a bunch of British actors, a couple of performers from Hong Kong and Singapore and a few Korean actors who had come over for the show (MC/Comedian Hong Roggi and dishy (as yet unknown) tv heartthrob Oh Man-seok were among them). We had a good time and after our London run we headed to Seoul…
Seoul was wonderful. We all stayed together in a big house in Hannam-dong, rehearsed a couple of Korean actors into the show and performed for a month at the Aroonguji theatre in Daehangno. It was a blast. We spent our days exploring the city, our evenings performing and our nights sampling the delights of Korean food and drink. Much soju was drunk, much samgyeopsal was grilled and many, many songs were sung in many different noraebangs.
It just so happened that the writer of the play Tae, Oh Tae-sok took an interest in our production and ordered the cast and crew of Mokwha Repertory Company to lend us a hand. They helped build our set, make our props and generally made us feel very welcome. Oh Tae-sok (who is the artistic director of Mokwha) also gave us notes after every show alongside Gina, our director. It was a bizarre experience, having two directors at once, but not a bad one. While we worked on the show I met their resident props designer and the two of us started to talk. We sat huddled in corners, trying to communicate and we fell in love over a dictionary. It was all very romantic… On our first date we ate intestine soup, watched the horror movie Final Destination and as we walked through the streets of Chongno at two in the morning, a drunken middle aged Korean man called her a whore for kissing me.
That was it.
I was hooked.
In love with the country. In love with a girl.
On our way back to the UK, most of us cried. We had had such an incredible month, such an unique experience. The loss of our Korean friends (and the love of my life) was just too much for us.
Three months later I was back. FOREVER!
Gina had been busy on the Korean theatre scene and in the summer of 2001 we managed to put on the first ever Korean production of The Rocky Horror Show. Hong Roggi starred as Frankenfurter and Oh Man-seok played Rocky with myself as Riff-Raff and numerous other Korean actors, most of whom went on to be rich and famous. Night after night Roggi bared his g-stringed bottom for delighted crowds of young Koreans and we had an excellent time.
We went on to do it again that winter, which was also an excellent time until I came down with a serious stomach virus and had to be hospitalized for two weeks. Two weeks attached to a drip, with an ice back next to my belly in a hospital dormitory filled with old Korean men. Two weeks of eating nothing but rice porridge and shuffling along corridors with a needle permanently stuck in my arm. I would not describe this as an excellent time in any way, shape or form and to this day I can’t bring myself to eat rice porridge.
Moving swiftly on… I’d been going to see Mokwha Repertory Company’s plays on a regular basis, the love of my life had graduated from props designer to set designer and often appeared on stage in small roles. Then one day, I was asked if I’d like to act in a minor role for their production of Romeo and Juliet at the Seoul Arts Center. I said yes and ended up playing a confused missionary who tries to get a message to Romeo (after his banishment) and ends up in a quarantine zone with a bunch of cholera victims).
I went on tour with them to Jeonju and sometime after that in the autumn of 2002 I got a phone call from my stage designer friend (the one from St Martins) about a new children’s theatre company in Apgujeong. I went along, met the team, passed an audition, signed a contract and spent the next eight years working on seventeen shows (acting in fifteen of them) at Latt Children’s Theatre. I’ve also kept working with Mokwha, touring the world with them when I can, and translating and subtitling Oh Tae-sok’s plays every so often (for both Mokwha and the National Theatre Company of Korea). As for performing in the U.K. - We were lucky enough to be invited to the Barbican in London in 2006 and had a sold out three week run at the Pit. Last year we spent a couple of weeks at the Rose theatre in Kingston-on-thames and this year we’ll be going to Edinburgh for the very first time! We’re so lucky to be invited to the Edinburgh International Festival and I hope we’ll knock their socks off.
So there you have it a rather lengthy, yet still very abridged account of how I started acting in Korea…
I’ve spent pretty much all day in front of my macbook working on the Tempest translation, book one rewrites and book two of my children’s set, and I think madness is starting to set in.
Tonight I get to watch a runthrough of the aforementioned Tempest and see whether our translation fits with the piece or not. I’m going to be the one creating and operating the subtitles for our run at the Edinburgh International Festival, so it’s all down to my judgement.
Mwahahahaha! I am the ruler of the subtitles!
Yes, I think the madness has very much made its home in my head tonight.
In other news, my desktop computer has broken. That may explain why I’ve been working so much today and not watching crap tv…
Now I’m going to stroll around Daehangno for half an hour. I shall attempt to look sane, but I can’t promise anything.
My work day is crawling to a close. I’ve sent off my first children’s book for editorial approval/feedback and we have finally finished our first full translation of The Tempest. Yay!
I’ve got editing meetings tomorrow and I’ll be watching a rehearsal of The Tempest to see how well the translation fits, but it feels like a big chunk of work has been sorted out. Now I’ve just got to get Book Two finished by next Monday.
As for tonight, I may well take the rest of the evening off and settle down for pasta, wine and something stimulating on the tv…
I’m halfway through book one and may well be finished by the end of the day. Must force myself not to watch cookery shows or old episodes of Doctor Who…
I popped into Daiso (1,000 won store) yesterday and on a whim snatched up a whiteboard and some markers. Turns out it’s a great way to storyboard the book and get my ideas into shape. I’ve been taken photos with my iPhone, so this way my editors get to look at my childish scribbles as they read my notes.
Act Five for The Tempest arrived in my inbox last night which means we may have the whole thing fully translated by Monday. It’s going to be a looooooong couple of days.