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This isn't Romance
The plot follows Miso (admirably played by American actress Janet Lim) who was adopted out of Korea as a child into an affluent English family. After 25 years, she returns to the country where she was born to find the brother she abandoned for the sake of a hardship-free upbringing. The siblings discover that their love, after years of separation, is now followed by excess and they are confused at the reflexivity of their identities. As they tussle with feelings of anger, resentment and longing, the intimacy they yearned for is now in danger of being over-indulged. These fraught, desperate emotions reach a climax when Miso's self-combusting impetus leads to a horrifyingly literal but cathartic expression.
This all occurs within a vividly depicted Seoul populated by an idiosyncratic array of characters: an English, seedy hotelier (Matthew Marsh) with lascivious intent and wife with children left at home, a waitress (Elizabeth Tan) juggling bunny and kitten costumes, and a harshly straight-talking model agent (Sonnie Brown). Designed by Jon Bausor, the set features panels of screen which act as sliding doors as well as providing a backdrop for video projection. Atmospheric, impressionistic sequences include fast-paced traffic, Oriental script and kaleidoscopic glimpses of the siblings' faces.
Janet Lim impressively tackles the part of Miso, which is written with unremitting intensity. A difficult and potentially unsympathetic part, Miso's anger, violence and self-loathing pervade every scene and she turns to embrace her own degradation. However, Lim's expert performance ensures that the audience are both engaged and emotionally invested in Miso's fate. Mo Zainal intelligently plays Han-Som, her deserted younger brother left to fend for himself in cruel poverty.
Lisa Goldman's direction manages to modulate the somewhat unrelenting tempo of the text and she cleverly extrapolates moments of depth, poignancy and emotion from the highly-charged writing. With fluid, naturalistic movement, the brilliance of the characterisation is memorably animated. Although at times This isn't Romance seems to resort to shock tactics without enough substance to justify them, In-Sook Chappell is obviously an interesting, unusual talent and her first play is a raw, brutal and intrepid piece.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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