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Cheong-euy Park: Spray and MacBeth

By | Published on Tuesday 6 August 2019

It’s more than a decade since Korean director Cheong-euy Park first brought his work to the Festival, but the approach of the Choin Theatre company founder still seems entirely fresh. This year he is back at the Fringe with two shows, both adaptations of existing texts, and both sound like very quirky and interesting interpretations.

I spoke to Cheong-euy Park to find out more about his career, about this year’s productions, and what we can expect from Choin Theatre in the future.

CM: You’re bringing two shows to edfringe this summer, so let’s talk about them separately: can you start by telling us what to expect from ‘Spray’? What story does it tell?
CP: ‘Spray’ is a dark comedy about coexisting with noise and our neighbours, and what happens when that noise is silenced. We hope our neighbours’ noise is never silenced. In this show, images and symbols serve as a kind of grammar to create changes of time and space on stage. I hope the audience understands and enjoys it.

CM: What themes does the show explore?
CP: A trigonometry of noise, empathy and revenge. Freedom from everyday societal rules. Curiosity, anger and compassion: these are the stages of change of emotion our character experiences in response to the noise of his neighbour.

CM: What do you hope people will take away from it?
CP: The fear of a quiet world.

CM: It’s an adaptation from a book, isn’t it? Can you tell us a bit about the book, and the author?
CP: Yes, it’s adapted from a short story written by Kim Kyung-uk. He was born in Gwangju, Korea, in 1971. His debut story, ‘An Outsider’, won the Writers’ World Prize in 1993, and since then he has published several short story collections in Korean. His first English publication, ‘God Has No Grandchildren’, was published in 2015. His writing is unpredictable and enigmatic.

CM: What made you want to tell this story?
CP: Two big events dominated the news in South Korea in 2016. One was the Sewol ferry disaster, and the other was the anti-government protests. Whenever I came back from a protest at Gwanghwamun Square, I thought our apartment complex was too quiet. Some people treated the cries of the Sewol ferry disaster’s victims’ families as noise. Our neighbours’ noise has a cause. We are not angry at the noise of our neighbours. We are angry because it confirms our state of existence. It’s very difficult for me to explain in English.

CM: The second show is an adaptation of a play that will be very familiar to most Fringe goers. What made you decide to do a show around this particular Shakespearean tale?
CP: Our ‘Macbeth’ is a study of the anger of young people who want to be the devil. I wanted to find the reason why people have loved this play for so long, why people love a devil like Macbeth. We all live for our own desires. In a society where we cannot achieve those desires fairly, we are willing to become the devil.

CM: Your ‘Macbeth’ is a one person show, played alternately by two performers, one male and one female. What made you decide to make it a solo performance, and why the alternating performers?
CP: Why a female performer as well as a male one? I thought the piece would work well with someone who was considered a more vulnerable member of society. Someone with less power, so it’s hard to reach a place of higher status… Smaller, smaller beings. When society has become one of infinite competition, their rise is impossible. In the end, they feel pity for the devil’s failure. Why solo? It concentrates attention on this one poor soul who cannot fulfil their desires in reality. The audience will be able to contemplate their souls, as this lone figure does on an empty stage. Why alternating performers? No special reason. The female actor is the lead in Spray, and it’s too much for her to do two shows every day.

CM: How would you describe both shows in terms of genre – what style of show can audiences expect?
CP: Total theatre. I can’t explain because I never think about genre. You can decide…

CM: Can you tell us a bit about your company, Choin Theatre? What made you decide to create your own company, and what were your aims in setting it up?
CP: Every company has their own creative method. They should. So I wanted to find my own creative method and style of creation. In 2006, 2007 and 2008 I brought two shows to Edinburgh, both dramas without speech: ‘Train’, and ‘The Angel And The Woodcutter’. We have been always trying to find our own way to create something new… and we will continue to do so.

CM: What about you..? Did you always want to be a theatre director, and is it what you have always done? How did your career begin, and how has it progressed?
CP: Yes, I’ve wanted to be a theatre director since I was at university, or even earlier. I majored in English Literature and attended a theatre club during my college days. After graduating, I joined a theatre company right away and worked as an assistant director for about seven years, during which time I was able to direct several performances. I made a show called Train in 2002, which gained a lot of attention in Korea. I decided to create my own company to further investigate my own way of creating theatre.

CM: Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions…? Where do you see yourself headed career-wise?
CP: Using various elements such as video, circus and dance, I want to create a variety of performances that are especially suited to the stage.

My job is to create. It is my job to create a better environment for creation. I want to maintain my livelihood through creation, meet good actors, train together and, above all, meet more skilled creators. If I can make a lot of money or become famous it might help me to make such an environment. Ha ha!

CM: As you mentioned, this isn’t the first year you’ve brought shows to edfringe: what made you want to return? What do you like about the Festival?
CP: The festival has a fantastic reputation and our previous shows here sold out. I want to create good memories for our company members. But if I have to choose one reason, it’s curiosity. I wonder what audiences here will think about my work. In terms of what I like about the Festival, it is honest. Very honest… Because so many different people evaluate performances. The result is very honest.

CM: What happens to these shows after the Edinburgh runs? Will they go on anywhere else? 
CP: At the moment, we have two further performances scheduled in Korea.

CM: Do you expect to be back in Edinburgh next year?
CP: I think so…

CM: What’s coming up next for you, after this? Do you have any new shows in development?
CP: Yes… We are working on using 3D video on moving frames and combining animation with live performance.

‘Spray’ was performed at Assembly Roxy and ‘MacBeth’ at C South at Edinburgh Festival 2019.