Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Tale of Haruk (Metro Plus Theatre Festival, Hyderabad, Day 1)

The Tale of Haruk is a Korean folk story that was enacted on stage, and the brilliance of the performance lies in the simplicity of style used to depict something sublime. Using a multiplicity of styles- puppetry, shadow performances, masks, as well as massive canvases that covered the entire stage, the cast incorporated both music and sound to hold their audiences captivated. The cast of five was dressed in plain whites throughout the show, using minor alterations in costume to depict different characters.

The play begins with a narrator who initially gets the audience's attention by performing minor tricks. Calling out to the audience, he brings in his troupe of musicians who enter playing various reusable objects- empty plastic water cans, beer bottles, a couple of pots and pans- all of which are used for making the most melodious of sounds. Their initial disorganisation is arranged by the 'narrator' who plays the clarinet and once they synchronise with each other, they move to the corner to allow their characters to take stage.

Three of the five actors become the narrators, and two of them become the old couple who do not have children. Even this transition from narrators to characters in the story is beautiful, where the couple wear their traditional hanbok on stage, wearing masks to depict their roles. With the narrative in Korean, most of the play was depicted through actions, using dialogue only when necessary. The concept of Haruk, who starts out by being an egg, and then a face, and eventually a rag doll manoeuvred by the third actor, who enacts the child Haruk. One of my best images of this trio, is when the couple try to get Haruk to tell new words, using newspapers in many different ways to portray different animals, all of which Haruk responds only by repeating his name (something akin to Hodor, if you think about it). 

The father, who knows barely any story, tells Haruk the story of a tiger that eats up an old lady who carries rice on her way back home. Apart from being a vague parallel to the main story, the interesting part of this story-within-a-story is the use of cellotape as a musical instrument, culminating in the tiger ripping the heart of the old lady (shown with red tape)!

But Haruk eats the forbidden rice! Nothing visible happens and Haruk goes to sleep and dreams of massive beings and wisps of white. 
And when he wakes up, he becomes a giant with an insatiable hunger:
And keeps growing:

He eats up the sun and the moon, and his parents become puppet-like in size to him. He watches from way up high as his parents become actual puppets amidst a halo of yellow light, desperately begging their child to stop eating. Yet, Haruk cannot stop and this only causes harmless bickering amongst the old couple, who eventually decide to sacrifice themselves to Haruk's hunger. Haruk's tears become an ocean on which the puppet parents are tossed, and eventually they are consumed by the stage-encompassing canvas of Haruk.

In the next scene, the parents are now seated comfortably in Haruk's belly:
The beauty of this play is not the story, but the enaction that defies description! This shadow couple sitting in the belly of their child, end up doing what they did before they asked for a child- the old man reads his paper and the old woman does her knitting (and the paper and the wool with the string held by the old woman are actually shown in that little encirclement).

The play ends with the narrators once again, resuming the stance they took before the narration commenced. The tale was simply told, with the on-screen translation only aiding the understanding process (something that I did not anticipate). The actors were amazing, using the entire stage, and with splendid movements that showed their agility and grace. The constant repetition of 'Haruk' evoked much laughter. But most of all, the stage-sized enormity of the insatiable Haruk evoked sublime awe. It was in this beauty that the plays strengths lay.

This was one of those plays that leaves you stunned and spell-bound at the end. I have not seen such a lovely play in a really long time, and was glad that I had taken the effort to go watch it. Haruk is a story that will ever remain with me!

1 comment:

Mind Butterfly said...

I really like your description. Missed the play but glad to read this :)Love