Travelogue: Watching my first local play in Seoul (My Grandpa is a Superstar)

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Daehak-ro, which almost sounds like 大学路, indeed used to be the main road that bordered many universities in Hyehwa-dong. Today, daehak-ro is known as the "street of culture" in Seoul and stepping foot into the area immediately makes you realise why. The abundance of theatres and performances of the arts in this area already outnumber the number of theatres and performance spaces we have here in Singapore!

There are almost 180 local theatres here, of all scales and sizes and performances run almost daily. This isn't the first time that I am at this street/road, for it is a common area you'd walk past on the way to the Ihwa Mural Village after exiting from Hyehwa station. But it was only during my recent trip here with the Korea Tourism Organization (Singapore) did I realize that this area is indeed packed with the cultural space and richness that I wish existed in Singapore.

The streets and alleys are lined with numerous cafes and shops, and boutique ticketing box offices. Nearer to show time, you will start to see queues forming outside the theatre space and locals waiting to enter. It was truly a sight to behold for it was a first for me to see anything like that, and it really made me very curious to catch my very first local play right here in Daehak-ro!

Even before I could really process the fact that I was here to watch a local play at such an unexpected place, we arrived in front of this pink ticketing box office and was greeted by a signage that read "My Grandpa is a Superstar". That was what we were going to catch that evening!

The best part about waiting for your play to start here is that... you can shop around or have a cup of coffee before show time. But people usually would queue to get the best seats as it is free seating and the theatre has a very intimate setting, and seats around 90 at one time.

Now, the fact that the theatre has its space constraints also emphasizes one thing -- that every single projection of actions and expressions by the actors and artistes can be seen and felt in full clarity and detail, the opposite of that performing in a huge concert hall where one has to worry about being able to "hold" the stage and space on their own. And that was what really made me look forward to watching the play in a foreign place, because even with the language barriers, the thing about the arts is body language will transcend language (speech) and overcome the barriers faced during verbal interactions.

 The actual play itself, when it came on was a joy to watch as it was interactive, entertaining and captivating at the same time. There was barely a dull moment where I drifted off (tends to happen sometimes during some plays/musicals) and I felt that the duration of the show was just nice as well. English and Mandarin subtitles were also provided although not in perfect translation but that is definitely better than nothing for those who really need it!

Photography and videography weren't allowed in the theatre during the show so I'm sorry I couldn't share more, besides this spontaneous photo I took of the cast post show:

Through the play, you can also tell how dedicated and committed the casts were and how they just enjoyed being on stage. Not to mention they were all also around my age group so that makes their dedication to this passion even more admirable for me (':

So, the next time you're in Seoul and have an evening to spare (after visiting Ihwa Mural Village maybe?), why not catch a show at any of their 180 local theatres and get a feel for yourself the arts and culture scene right in the heart of the city? :)

(The trip was sponsored, by the experience definitely isn't ^^)

Xin Lin

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