ED2022 Children's Shows ED2022 Interviews ED2022 Theatre

Yeeun Cho: Mary, Chris, Mars

By | Published on Monday 8 August 2022

One of the strands I’ve been looking at with interest at this year’s Festival is the Korean Showcase presented by Korean Cultural Centre UK, which features seven very interesting looking shows. 

One of them is by a group called Trunk Theatre Project, who specialise in making shows that can be performed both online and in the real world, and which utilise compact miniature stage sets that fit in a trunk, hence the name.

This month, as part of the Korean Showcase, they are presenting ’Mary, Chris, Mars’ – a story set in space told using little adorable puppets – and which is suitable for both adults and children.  

To find out more about the play and the creative brain behind it, I spoke to the company’s Yeeun Cho, writer and director of the piece.

CM: Can you explain what sort of show ‘Mary, Chris, Mars’ is in terms of style and genre? What kind of work is it? 
YC: ‘Mary, Chris, Mars’ is a multimedia show, blending physical theatre, tiny set design and puppetry, along with a melancholic live score.

The miniature sets and puppets pop out of trunks and help to build a surrealistic atmosphere of outer space. They’re handmade, and full of brilliant ideas and details and will definitely catch the audience’s eye.     

CM:  What story does the show tell? What themes are explored through the performance? 
YC: ‘Mary, Chris, Mars’ is a story that takes place in outer space. Mary and Chris are steering through space on their respective missions in two one-person spaceships that are circling and observing Earth.

After a chance encounter throws them together, Mary and Chris end up spending Christmas Day together on the planet Mars. Even though they can’t talk, share food, or feel each other’s warmth, it becomes a perfect Christmas.

It’s a family-friendly adventure that takes us on an absurdist journey through what it means to spend time together in person.

CM: What was the inspiration for the play?
YC: ‘Mary, Chris, Mars’ started from asking the simple question: “where will this story happen?”

The first trip I went on after being isolated at home for a long time due to COVID-19 was a trip to Jeju, a beautiful island in Korea. While thinking about the sense of isolation caused by the pandemic on the plane to Jeju Island, I felt like I wanted to open the window and get some cool breeze. However, I couldn’t do that, obviously, since I was on the plane, and I came to see that feeling as something we had all been experiencing because of COVID-19.

Then I thought that space could be the place where we could start from, and once the cosmic background was set, the characters came along. I thought it would be very cute if I made astronauts into puppets. Puppets wearing helmets, thick gloves and space suits could tell many stories. 

I met my co-workers from Trunk Theatre Project with only the synopsis and the concept of the puppets, and the imagination and ideas of the actors and staff all helped make ‘Mary, Chris, Mars’.

I hope that the audience who see us in Edinburgh will be curious about where the Trunk Theatre Project will go next. 

CM: The show is in the theatre section, but I understand that it’s suitable for a broad audience? How accessible is it for children? 
YC: ‘Mary, Chris, Mars’ is full of charming props and other elements that can draw the audience in, such as the live music performance. The story itself is simple but touching and, therefore, the audience can just dive into the play!

When I shaped my idea of how this show would look, I imagined myself playing with children. When it came to the text, I tried to imagine I was talking with my friends.

‘Mary, Chris, Mars’ is the perfect show for a family, as the children will enjoy giggling at the show, but their parents will enjoy themselves too. 

CM: Can you tell us about Trunk Theatre Project and what it does? 
YC: Trunk Theatre Project is a theatre company based in South Korea. We navigate both off-line and online spaces, and began our first online livestreaming project during the pandemic.

Since it was not easy to gather in person due to social distancing, we started to find ways to make plays that are always ready to be produced, performed and be stored in one room. Most importantly it had to be possible to perform each piece online.

We make compact miniature stage sets that fit in trunks so that they can be taken out anytime, anywhere. From pre-production to design, rehearsal, and to performance, all the steps are shared through an online platform.

We find the meaning of the work by pursuing the irreplaceable uniqueness of the play. 

CM: How did you come to be selected for The Korean Showcase? 
YC: One day I found out that there was a project run by Korean Cultural Centre UK, supporting Korean artists to participate in Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2022, so I applied for it!

I assume that the characteristics of Trunk Theatre Project suited well to the spirit of Edinburgh Fringe. It seems like they have noticed our fresh work, and the youthful vibes of our young Korean creators.

We are honoured to be a part of Korean Showcase 2022, and I hope the audience enjoys our show and gets a taste of what’s going on in the Korean theatre scene.        

CM: Have you been to the Edinburgh Festival before? What are you hoping to get from your visit?
YC: This is our first experience of the Edinburgh Festival and we are so excited! We want to get fully soaked in the atmosphere of the Fringe and get inspired by works by artists from all over the world. And of course, visit beautiful places in Edinburgh!

CM: What do you plan to do when you are not doing your own show? 
YC: To see as many shows as possible, of course.

We are very excited to see a variety of ingenious performances by artists from all over the world. And we want to chat with artists about their, and our, works, which would be better with beer or whiskey, haha!

Other than that, we will enjoy every alley of Edinburgh and go shopping for warm clothes so that we can cope with the unpredictably beautiful weather in Scotland!

CM: Can we talk about your past, a bit? What drew you to an artistic career? Did you always want to be a creative? 
YC: I was always interested in being creative, and most importantly, I loved sharing my creations with people. As a kid, after playing the piano for hours, I always had to call my friends and family and kind of force them to listen to what I have done – looking back, I feel sorry for them!

I was always full of curiosity and interested in learning new things, and being gathered around people, so maybe I was just meant to be a theatre person!  

CM: What have been the highlights of working in this field thus far? 
YC: It obviously is NOW! I’m reaching audiences who come to see our show just because of the poster, who picked this story out of countless incredible shows on at the Fringe.

It feels like I’m learning how to walk properly on my own, on unknown ground. I would like to express my deep gratitude to my teammates, the people who are supporting us, and the audiences who will come to our show.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future? 
YC: My aim is to keep making shows for fun, while we continue to work in a way that my colleagues and I find interesting, and which audiences like too.

If we remain fun and enthusiastic, good opportunities like what’s happening for us now will come, and we will go for those opportunities. We hope we see you in Edinburgh again!   

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this? 
YC: Online streaming of Trunk Theatre Project’s ‘Kesha, Lelo, Kesha’ is upcoming. ‘Kesha, Lelo, Kesha’ means ‘Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow’ in the language of a small village called Mutanda in Zambia, Africa.

It was performed physically in May 2022 and tells a story that happens in the desert, focusing on a character who looks back while everyone else walks forward. Follow us on social media and we will keep you updated! See you soon!

‘Mary, Chris, Mars’ was performed at Summerhall at Edinburgh Festival 2022.

LINKS: kccuk.org.uk | instagram.com/trunktheatreproject

Photo: Sein Park