“Nothing worth having was ever achieved without effort.” Many athletes have this quote in their minds and workout strenuously when they are training. How much time and effort they put in is directly linked to their results. Judo Boy, which is back with new cast members after its premiere in 2014, also demonstrates the epigram. With the main theme involving “Efforts pay at last,” all tickets are sold out in every show by virtue of actors’ and actresses’ passion and exertion.
▲ After the play ends successfully, all actors and actress took photo drenched in sweat. Photographed by Lee Dawoon
Starting from the spotlights that shed light on the characters, the play introduces the six main characters showing their sports skills. As the title Judo Boy suggests, the main character, GyungChan is a high school judo student who tries to regain his reputation. The other main characters, Min-Uk and Hwa-Young box and play badminton respectively, which weaves the plot. They get tangled with each other in the story, creating a love triangle relationship. Even though there are only five actors and one actress, they cover more than ten characters by using different intonations, clothing, and great acting. Due to these efforts, everyone in the audience knows that one person is acting as various characters and they can comprehend what is happening in the context.
The play revolves around the three main following aspects: sports, love, and comedy. Since they perform high level skills on the stage, the actors frequently get hurt. One of the actors, Shin Chang Jin, injured his back during the performance and Hong Woo Jin now suffers from a chronic ankle joint problem. Other actors and actresses are often afflicted by minor injuries too. Although it is burdensome, they practice just like sports players to achieve the winning edge, “If you are determined to do it, do it well.”
Before they stand on the stage, they begin practicing, memorizing, studying dialogue, and then have two months of rehearsals. Finally, on stage, they pour out what they have prepared so arduously and the spectators see their sweat and hard work. Thanks to their sincere exertion, the performance is close to reality, therefore, arousing the audience's sympathy. The audience also mesmerized by the story. Actors’ and actresses’ devotion is why Judo Boy received a 9.7 out of 10 rating.
The plot of the play is a typical love story. It deals with onesided love and adversity that follows. However, the flow and how it is described are what make the scenes special. It is in a unique situation, sports competition, and each character has a special background story of growing up, which the audience will later find out by appreciating the play. The play covers the first love of high school students rather than serious love, which portrays more pure and heartwarming love that can be enjoyed pleasantly.
Moreover, the humor is also intriguing, constantly making the audience laugh. Actors use slapsticks when performing their sports skills. They exaggerate their actions or sometimes move in slow motion to make the best use of the sports genre. Also, the difference between Gyung-Chan and Tae-Gu’s proficient Jeonla-do dialect and their friend, Joseph’s awkward use of the dialect keeps the audience in stiches. These scenes are illustrated in humorous ways.
What is more amazing is that while the actors consecutively succeed at difficult sports skills, they do not miss sophisticated details. Since it is a small theater where the audience can reach out to the stage the play invites the audience as participants. The players use diverse intonations, expressive eyes, and gestures to depict the subtle emotions of the characters. With their actions, the message is conveyed seamlessly and touches the audience. Due to the advantage of a small theater, the actors also interact with viewers actively by chanting the script and clapping together.
Since the time setting is in the 1990s, various Korean 90's pop music resonates from the stage. For instance, “Candy” by H.O.T., “Bbuyo-bbuyo” by UP, “Live or Die by Style” by Sechs Kies play significant roles in representing the characters’ minds and make the theatergoers recollect memories. A pager and its secret code like 1004 that means angel in Korean, which was widely used back in the 90s, is also introduced to make the background more convincing. Owing to the popularity of retrospection, it is another charming point.
One of the actors, Park Hoon, remarked that he especially hopes that the audience understands the message about what judo conveys. Since the story also deals with overcoming obstacles, it gives hope to those who are in a slump. It also suggests how people can fulfill their true dream despite adversity. It could be what an actor wanted to send via the performance.
Emphasizing the efforts, Judo Boy demonstrates the theme both in the story and in the actors’ acting. In addition, it stresses people to enjoy what they really want to do. Since the scenario has a high reputation in the field of performance, the production company of Ode to my father (2014), which is also known as Gukje Sijang, is planning to adapt the Judo Boy scenario into a movie. As the high number of watchers and positive comments from the critics have verified, the play will hopefully satisfy the expectations.
Performance Information Date: February 7 to May 3, 2015 Place: Artone theater 3 (02-762-0010) Running Time: 115 minutes Ticket Price: 40,000 Won (For Korea University Students, 18,000 Won)
▲ Actors perform judo match like a real competition. Provided by Story P.