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  • Writer's pictureElisha Bae

Talchum Performance

from the left: Chorengi, Yangban, Halmi (me!), Gakshi, Bune

In my IB Theatre class, we've been looking at something called 'Talchum'. It's not jargon for a theatrical term (although, I wonder what it would be if it was.. a specific lighting technique?) — it's a theatre convention in Korea, developed in the Joseon dynasty.

It's a unique style of theatre with stock characters with the use of masks. The whole premise of the stories (which are brought to the audience in episodes that necessarily don't link to one another) is to humorously present society with satire. For example, the character of the "Yangban " (nobleman) is always accompanied by a mischievous servant "Chorengi". Although the Yangban doesn't treat his servant in a friendly manner, always hitting him when he doesn't do as he's told, Chorengi gets his revenge by tricking his master into humiliating situations.

There are only a handful of female characters (as society did not allow for women to act), which are "Bune" (the two-faced ) and "Halmi" (which is the character I played, who is a widowed old woman). Just like Greek Theatre, these characters would have been played by men during the Joseon dynasty.

In Talchum, there’s a lot of improvisation needed, which was a lot of fun. The script we made was merely a guideline to get the story going, but the reactions or comments on a character’s line was always changing. We actually took the performance outside (just like traditional Talchum performances) and showed it to the Junior school students. They were such a rowdy bunch, tailing us and stopping us from going anywhere. The senior school performance seemed so easy afterwards.

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