Pfc. Go (Nam Geung-ho), with the red balloon symbolizing one of his reproductive body parts, sits surrounded by the supporting cast, in a promotional photo by the National Theater Company of Korea.
/ Courtesy of National Theater Company of Korea
By Kwaak Je-yup
This spring season will receive an unusual addition to its line-up in a rule-bending comedy from the National Theater Company of Korea (NTCK).
Billed as the “most incredible comedy on this planet” by the company, “Balloon” has a blunt and almost surreal ― if not absurd ― focus on an outsized male reproductive organ.
“[The work] cannot be explained in words,” said Lee Sang-woo executive producer and theater veteran at the Friday press conference. “I wanted to defy the convention of comedy, ignore its formula, pull out all the stops… it will be a comedy with a lot of (slapstick) movement.”
Starting in March, the latest original play by Go Jae-gwi follows Pfc. Go through an unlikely sequence of events that unfolds after one of his testicles is injured ― and swells to an outrageous proportion. After medical tests, the organ is found to contain a miraculous panacea, sparking an international manhunt for the low-ranked soldier. The government puts him under tight security and orders scientific experimentations on him to make the body part even bigger.
The production’s dependence on choreography over language is translated into another atypical choice in the casting of Nam Geung-ho, an internationally-renowned mime artist, in the leading role. It marks his debut as a main speaking character.
“(Lee) approached me with a script, and I soon said yes,” said Nam on Friday. “I wanted an adventure, since I’ve only done mime all my life, and this was exactly that.”
Though sprinkled with ample innuendos and even overt references to sex, “Balloon” may seem to lack substance, but the team at the press conference denied that the play was only fun.
“(Before producing the work,) I had asked myself: isn’t the supposedly real life we live in just an illusion?” said Lee. “We are just used to making compromises to accommodate these fantasies into daily life.”
“Balloon” explores one thing in particular; the popular obsession with all things big and large. The play is a not-so-subtle critique of the contemporary tendency to calculate a person’s worth in purely economic terms.
For the audience, the creative team promises sheer, non-stop entertainment, based on supersized imaginations.
“Roughly speaking, I wanted something that’s hit-on-the-head, weird, nonsensical,” said Ryu Jang-hyun, choreographer, adding that the cast were required to learn very unconventional gestures. “I did whatever I wanted, and others had to temper those decisions a little afterwards.”