The Messenger - Edinburgh Fringe 2023
A powerful slice of non-verbal mask theatre from acclaimed South Korean creative collective Geo Gi Ga Myeon, this show uses comedy, acrobatics, slapstick, and dance to portray the lives of an elderly couple afflicted with dementia. The stakes are high. The company also uses large full-face masks for each character. The masks have exaggerated characteristics for each character and that means that the performers physicality is equally exaggerated and stylised. It is extremely physical work and these performers are exquisite in their execution.
This non-verbal play is full of brilliant imagination and unique ideas. Three actors use slapstick, Tatiesque acting and athleticism to invoke the changing expression and physical humour of the characters. “The Messenger” is poignant but from a theatrical point of view this is virtuosic physical and mask theatre. The biggest surprise came at the curtain call when the audience realised it was ONLY three sweaty and dishevelled performers taking on all the roles. The twitching hands of the oldies, the poses and attitude of three K-pop young women, the ferocity of a friendly dog just to name three incarnations.
The messenger of the title is death, and “he” sends his henchman to gather an elderly lady on her final journey. But the elderly lady’s husband will fight his off for as long as he can. Along the way there is plenty of detail of the trials of being a carer and many jokes about incontinence – even non-verbally we all understand the jokes. Costume of the henchman is of the Korean Joseon period. He travels through time to the modern day. The blend of contemporary and traditional is striking.
“The Messenger “is highly accessible. As an audience we fill the spaces created by the performers with our imaginations based on our own lived experience. The energy created by the live performance and between the performers and audience is essential for this synergy to occur. It is a very poetic form of theatre because sometimes the image presented is suggestive. For example, the figure of death will mean many things depending on your cultural background. The sensations felt watching this work are unique and if anyone is in danger of falling asleep – watch out for the water gun!
The is very niche theatre but I loved the experience and recommend “The Messenger” to any theatrical adventurer!