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Hwang Jung-min's play, 'Richard III,' renews classical theater for pandemic times

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Actor Hwang Jung-min plays Richard III during a press conference for the play,
Actor Hwang Jung-min plays Richard III during a press conference for the play, "Richard III," at the Seoul Arts Center, Thursday. Yonhap

By Park Ji-won

The poster for the play,
The poster for the play, "Richard III" / Courtesy of Sem Company
"Richard III," the Shakespeare play exploring the Machiavellian rise to power and short reign of the British king, returns to the stage in Korea for the first time in four years.

Actor Hwang Jung-min plays the lead in the play set in the late fifteenth century depicting King Richard III, who expresses anger, self-pity and revenge, which drives him to take his own life in the end.

"One of the biggest reasons I chose to join this play is that I felt sorry for the disappearing classical plays in the scene. So I wanted to show the greatness and the power of the classical performances, which have been performed by senior actors since the past, to audiences and students who want to become actors," Hwang said during a press conference held at the Seoul Arts Center, Thursday. "Including actor O Yeong-su, who recently won a Golden Globe for the Netflix Korean original series, 'Squid Game,' we actors have been firmly keeping watch over the stage."

Director Seo Jae-hyung explained the meaning of the play.

"During times of difficulty, I think the works of Shakespeare are classics … (The last time we performed the play in Korea, in) the year 2018, I think that the society around me ― including myself and my friends ― just kept running in a kind of mad dash of endless work towards a certain goal or dream. Maybe something had gone wrong with society or myself, but in 2018, I focused on presenting that reality through the character of Richard III on stage."

"Initially, I was upset when this mad dash stopped (due to the pandemic)," he continued, "But then I realized that it is so precious to have this (pandemic) period, as it has made me think about the reasons why society had made me run like that at that time."

"So I came up with the 2022 version, which is a reflection of the past couple of years, by editing some scenes and slowing down the tempo of some others, so that this year's performance could go along with the period that we are now in," the director added.

The 100-minute performance will run through Feb. 13 at the Seoul Arts Center.

Park Ji-won

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