Jasmine Gwangju is about memories. In 1980 the people of Gwangiu city rebelled against the military junta in South Korea, an event that was the beginning of a political change towards democracy. The message is “remember, don’t forget our dead”. The Korean uprising has a direct connection with the recent uprisings across the Arab world and the performance makes references on the similarities of the two events.
Although the production is of high quality and the musicians are astonishing, there are parts that feel wrong or just boring. The drum and fire show and the final dance sequence are the highlights of the performance, but on the other hand the “ceremonial” part about honouring the dead is too depressing without creating the feeling of catharsis that it should.
Another strong part, mostly for its cultural significance, is the ceremony that requires the audience to write on a piece of paper a wish, which is then sent to heaven. It looks impressive and makes one feel part of the process. I believe that if this performance was presented in a year with less of an Asian presence, Jasmine Gwangju could be one of the highlights of the festival.
Overall it is a good production with a touching story and good performers. Some parts need redesigned and polished. 4 stars for the great effort and the timeless message.
By Francois Steward
Jasmine Gwangju’s run has ended