polar bear

Rasaq Kukoyi as William and Minju Kim as Jiyoung, Picture: Sung-yong Jang & Won-gyun Jung

Orange Polar Bear

Birmingham Rep Door


In a fusion of language and culture, Orange Polar Bear, co-written by Sun-Duck Ko and Evan Pacey tells the story of two teenagers living in the UK and Korea.

The project was founded from workshopping with young people simultaneously in Korea and the UK by company Hanyong Theatre, who create bilingual projects between the two countries. The National Theater of Korea and Birmingham Rep aim to show us the parallels of teenage life in separate countries.

The production is a fascinating observation of multi-lingual theatre. It follows two characters, in particular Jiyoung, a schoolgirl, living in a busy Korean city, meeting the demands of everyday life. and William, who lives in the UK in a flat with his mother.

He also grows within the daily situations of life and emotion. Their lives are worlds apart, yet because of circumstance, the similarities of yearning for an escape are strikingly similar.

Jiyoung is played by Minju Kim, who, with a demanding father and a mother she does not know, struggles with school and expectation. William also goes through the absence of a parent, his father. Kim is dynamic and bold within her performance and accompanies Rasaq Kukoyi’s performance as William with a dynamic fusion.

The performances are supported by a wonderful ensemble cast, who multi-role to create the world around the teenagers. The company create a truthful picture of stories about young living. Ah-ron Hong creates a particularly outstanding performance as Jiyoung’s stoic and workaholic father and within their journey together we see both striking and tender moments. Cheongim Kang plays the part of Jiyoung’s grandmother and also schoolfriend, who holds a talent for each role she plays.

Of those in William’s life, Michael Kodwiw is strong within his ensemble role as the schoolfriend who lost contact throughout the years, as is Tahirah Sharif who is particularly memorable within her role as Sarah, in which we see into her troubled life.

Yeo Shin-Dong’s modern design brings the two worlds of the teenagers together with ease. Visuals are projected at the back to take us to a multitude of settings, elegantly switching from the lift of an inner-city skyscraper in Korea, to the top of a roof building in the UK. Booming sounds are blended into the design to make comfortable transitions.

The production presents a complex maturity within the emotions and brave actions of each young person’s life. It is a touching and brave story to witness young adults making mistakes so boldly. the script is such that Jiyoung and William both understand each other completely, but never speak the other’s language. It is a connection that transcends all verbal communication and its impact is emotion alone.

When Korean is spoken in the play, there are subtitles shown in English and it is reciprocated so that Korean is subtitled for when the English language is spoken. This production would fit perfectly in a theatre in Korea as it would on any stage in the UK. The project is a great platform for giving the young a strong voice and allows older audiences to see into a universal world of what is actually important to young minds, so that we can keep moving forward. Directed by Peter Wynne-Willson, the Orange Polar Bear runs to 10-11-18

Elizabeth Halpin


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