Presented by Jaha Koo
Reviewed 25th October 2019
Cuckoo is one of three theatre productions in Jaha Koo’s Hamartia Trilogy. All three productions are similarly themed with the main focus being to theatrically communicate how major external events affect the social and interpersonal climate within which one grows up. Furthermore, he illustrates how this affects one’s life even once the major event has ceased to be fresh in scope.
Part one, Lolling and Rolling, is about Korea’s brief obsession with tongue surgery, a procedure they believed would help their children pronounce English words properly. The major event in this era was imperialism and colonialism with the outcome being an attempt to Westernise one’s identity. In the case of Cuckoo the major event was the severe economic crisis of 1997 in South Korea, leading the government to implement restructuring measures in order for the IMF to provide the country with a US$55 billion bailout package.
The austere measures led to severe inequality and subsequently marginalised many members of society. The term Golibmuwon is a Korean word that succinctly expresses the personal feelings of helplessness associated with this marginalisation and there is no equivalent word in English except to say that these feelings along with systemic marginalisation causes estrangment. In Jaha’s words, isolation without help.
Jaha then highlights how suicide rates have rapidly increased since the restructure and examples are provided both at a personal and general level. The visual images of a South Korea in crisis are equally distressing.
Itis a performance that is difficult to classify. A blend of biography, documentary, and theatre; at the same time it resembles a dark comedy with the talking rice cookers providing amusing dialogue. The structure of the performance is unique in style. If you want to go beyond the news – or lack of news – on South Korea, it is an eye opening way to feel connected to the hardships being endured.
Please Note: the show may be triggering as it includes suicide references.
Reviewed by Rebecca Wu
Rating out of 5: 4
Venue: Space Theatre
Season: Fri, 25 Oct – Sat, 26 Oct 2019
Duration: 1 hour