The Korean Season at the Edinburgh Fringe covers dance, theatre, magic and literature (with a special event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival). Kokdu: The Soul Mate is an adaption of a popular Korean play originally called HwanSangShinWha (also known as The Myth of Reincarnation). The performance combines physical theatre, dance, puppetry and drama to present a story of life, death and the afterlife.
Kokdu: The Soul Mate is divided up into 7 chapters. Chapter 1 is entitled ‘The Door to the Afterlife Opens’ and begins with shadow puppetry and dance. We are witnessing one of the many rituals that are performed on the stage. The movements are exaggerated and over the top. This style of performance is continued throughout the hour long show. Kokdu is not a subtle performance . It is big, bold and brash. All the drama unfolds in broad brush strokes where slight movements and down to earth dialogue are completely absent.
The majority of the performance is delivered in Korean, but as the performance is flamboyantly visual, there is no need to understand all the words that are shouted by the players. As the story progresses we witness chapters entitled ‘The Angel of Death’, ‘The Angel of Death Goes Into the House’ and the final chapter ‘The Mother’s Death – The Funeral’ This final scene takes the larger than life supernatural melodrama to the next level and showcases grief and torment in the extreme.
Getting the chance to experience traditional Korean Theatre is a great opportunity and is one of the many things that makes the Edinburgh Fringe special. Kokdu: The Soul Mate is a great example of Korean dance and performance, but it does feel a bit too elaborate and extravagant to be a fully enjoyable experience. The visuals on stage are impressive, but the fanciful delivery distracts from the drama.