“The Reunification of Two Koreas” review: Love will tear us apart, again

This play’s title is misleading. There are no dramatisations of wartime history; no political assertions of any sort. The only reference to the play’s title is minor, but it is, of course, about love.

The Reunification of Two Koreas comprises of twenty short scenes that explores love. The scenes are disparate but love pulses through the characters’ veins: from an unfolding wedding drama to a sex worker haggling for money. All these individuals are bound by a sad, painful love, that kind of love that hurts. It is called a crush for a reason. The play successfully evokes the reality of love that torments and teases, that both embraces you and stamps on your heart. Admittedly at times, the 2.5 hour runtime does feel long, particularly when some scenes are less effective than others (there are only so many variations of how a partner can leave you). Yet, the cast is enthralling, particularly Timothy Ng as a bumbling groomsman and Umi Kalthum Ismail as a discouraging girlfriend. The Reunification of Two Koreas explores how love breathes life—or in particular, death—into relationships. The play’s disjointed narrative can be erratic, but love undoubtedly binds these stories together. The characters are doomed to be (or not to be) together forever.

This review is based on the performance on 9 November 2018. Part of TheatreWorks’ Because I Love You season, The Reunification of Two Koreas ran from 1-11 November at TheatreWorks.
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“Dragonflies”: A migrant dreams for home

We are no different from dragonflies. With their tiny transparent wings flapping at 30 beats per second, these creatures travel thousands of kilometers to reproduce, to find a new home, to fight for their survival. This is what Pangdemonium’s Dragonflies alludes to: like dragonflies, our existence is dependent on long-distance migration. From the nomadic homo erectus to our forefathers arriving on distant shores, human beings share this animalistic drive to seek out greener pastures.

Dragonflies begins four years in the future, in a post-Brexit United Kingdom where xenophobia is rampant. It reads like a Nigel Farage wet dream – all non-British citizens no longer have the right to own property and are forced to return to their home countries. Despite having made England his home for thirty years, Singaporean citizen Leslie Chen (Adrian Pang), finds himself back in Singapore. He is greeted by a country that is equally hostile and brimming with racial tension.

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The dark despair of “OCD Love”

It begins with a tick. Then a tock. Faster than a working clock, more like a hyped up metronome. Or maybe more like the beat of a heart falling in love – fast, rushed, on adrenaline.

OCD Love starts with a hushed, ticking percussion as Rebecca Hytting performs a solo dance of angular limbs and arched backs. She is singular yet uncertain, a fitting beginning for a piece that leans into the obsessive and compulsive.

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The real world is a dystopia and “1984” is our relief

In 2018, 1984 looms over us. The Orwellian world of “doublespeak” and “Big Brother” seems almost akin to our world of “fake news” and “alternative facts”. So, why watch a dystopian play when we’re already living in one?

Funnily enough, 1984 gives us hope. Like a call to arms, Orwell’s nightmare vision offers a bleak refuge for us. The familiar tale is purposefully confronting; a stark reminder of the darkness found in our modern times.

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