Reviewer: Andrea Allen
Attempting a social, political and linguistic history of the Westernisation of South Korean culture is no mean feat, trying to communicate the entire thing in a second language that you’re not entirely confident in should make it impossible, not for Jaha Koo.
Lolling and Rolling is a condensed, well-informed narrative revealed in part through the fictional story of a child growing up in the pressure and rigours of Westernised South Korean Society. The show’s title is informed by the surgical procedure, lingual frenectomy. Advocated in South Korea as a miraculous aid to those unable to master the distinction between ‘l’ and ‘r’, the tongue is ‘lengthened’ by severing a section of the connective tissue underneath. It’s horribly enlightening and gives an alarming insight into the height at which perfect English pronunciation is prized. At points Koo addresses his audience directly in slow, laboured English, forced to abandon studying theatre after arriving in Amsterdam due to his insubstantial English, Koo’s own struggle with language acquisition is an ever-present shadow in this intellectual and challenging piece.
Koo is an immensely talented theatre maker. An opening montage of South Korean militaristic and societal images spanning the past century is combined with an original soundscape, the ensuing effect echoes Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi and Paul Hardcastle’s 19 and leaves you in no doubt you’re in the hands of someone supremely talented, but Lolling and Rolling just tries to squeeze way too much into one show.
The forty minutes that Jaha Koo allows himself is not even close to enough time to conquer the immense mountain he seeks to climb. There’s enough material for three shows here, maybe more. The breakneck speed of this whistle stop tour through such a rich, fascinating subject negates the impact irreparably. It would also be good to hear more from Koo in his native tongue. Whilst his slow, considered English helps communicate the intolerable pressure placed on South Korean youth, more subtitled conversation in his mother tongue would allow his personality to infuse the piece and give it the human, empathetic touch which it currently lacks.
Koo is incredibly talented, fingers crossed that he breaks this down and comes back with six shows instead. The key flaw with Lolling and Rolling is that it bites off far more than could ever possibly be chewed in under an hour.
Runs until Friday 17 March 2017 | Image: Contributed