Theatre Hooam are a Korean theatre company and are presenting Black and White Tea Room – Counsellor by writer/director Cha Hyun Suk. Jeong Seoung Ho is a counsellor who is still mourning the death of his wife. He has a ritual of visiting her burial site on the anniversary of her passing. This year his plans are derailed as an anxious gentleman insists on being seen by the counsellor. Black and White Tea Room – Counsellor is an intense and psychological two hander that is filled with twists and turns throughout.
The counsellor begins the performance by carrying out several mundane task – reading a book, feeding his fish, putting on a record, shining his shoes. His actions are broken when a loud banging noise can be heard from behind the audience. This continues until his patient works out how to open the door and runs into the tea room. He is wearing a zipped up jacket, with the hood up and a small backpack. There is something clearly on the mind of this man and by the end of the play we find out exactly what this is.
During the performance we discover that the counsellor worked as a police officer in the 1980’s when torture and brutality was a common method of suppression. This revelation is the link between the two men and also the deep and bitter conflict that is the backbone of the show.
The script is tightly presented, with not a single word wasted. The play is spoken in Korean, with the English translation projected onto a screen to the back of the stage. This works incredibly well, especially as we find out that the patient is deaf and can only lip read. He can only understand words visually and the supertitles puts the audience in the same position, all be it from a very different perspective.
The conclusion of the performance is totally shocking and delivers a tragic and somewhat comedic ending. Black and White Tea Room – Counsellor is part of the Korean Season at the Edinburgh Fringe and is a brilliant psychological drama with dark and traumatic twists. The show is performed in Korean on even dates and with an English speaking cast on odd dates.