|Actor Hwang Jung-min performs in the play 'Richard III.' / Courtesy of Sem Company|
‘Richard III' shines with star-studded cast
By Yun Suh-young
In a period when the theater industry is marred by a slew of #MeToo testimonies coming out in series, one play made everyone forget about the muddy news and actually rekindled the thought that plays were (and could be) sacred.
And "sacred" is the best word to describe the performance of the actors in "Richard III" staged at the Seoul Arts Center, although the plot itself is far from sacred — a story of a man full of anger, self-pity and burning with revenge that drives him to kill his own flesh and blood.
The 100-minute performance was met with dropped jaws and speechlessness in the audience. There was nothing to say, really, other than that it was great in every aspect. The 100-minute journey felt like 30 minutes with no time for boredom.
"Richard III" is actor Hwang Jung-min's first play after a 10-year hiatus from the stage — he has been busy making box office hits for the past decade as one of the most-sought-after film stars who could easily whip up 10 million ticket sales per film.
His performance was as good as reviewed. Seeing the blockbuster star in person, immersed in the lines and bringing out the pitiable life of Richard III of England (who ruled from 1483 to 1485), was overwhelming. He communicated with the audience — juggling the playful lines he had. In addition to wholehearted acting, his clear pronunciation and delivery of lines made it much easier for the audience to immerse into the story, which is not a given especially in live performances such as plays and musicals.
Yet what made this play amazing was not just the performance of one actor.
Every single actor cast in the play was as good as Hwang. This wasn't surprising because there were some very seasoned top stars in the cast — actor Jung Woong-in as Edward IV, the elder brother of Richard III and king of England, actress Kim Yeo-jin as Queen Elizabeth, wife of King Edward IV, musical singer Park Ji-yeon as Anne, Richard III's wife, and singer Jeong Eun-hye as the tragic Queen Margaret.
Singers Park and Jeong add thrill to the performance. Park sings during her part in the performance, maximizing her talent as one of Korea's best musical stars, and Jeong also creates peculiar sounds (although she's not singing) that brings out the eeriness of the scene in such a powerful manner. Jeong swallows the stage, giving goosebumps to those watching her outstanding performance.
The mise-en-scene is also stunning, with cleverly used visual effects.
This review was unplanned, as I am not a writer in charge of theater. Neither am I a huge fan of plays. But after seeing "Richard III," I just could not resist writing a few lines about it. Initially, I was debating between watching the musical "Anna Karenina" and "Richard III." I decided to go for the play simply because of Hwang. Both are well-reviewed performances, both with great casts ("Anna Karenina" has Oak Joo-hyun as Anna), but having seen "Richard III," I had to recommend this as a must-see performance.
The play runs until March 4 at the Seoul Arts Center. Visit sacticket.co.kr for more information.