Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Kook Soo-Ho’s explosive celebration of Korean drumming and dancing may not be one of the subtlest shows on the fringe but it must be one of the noisiest and surely the most energetic. Apart from some gorgeous costumes, there is little that gives us any sense of the culture or background from which the skills of the 16-strong company come; it is a straight-forward drums show. If you like drums, or think you might, then this is something to see. If not then not.
Perhaps sparked by the demise of variety shows, there has been a steady stream of “look at what we can do” stage shows in the last couple of decades. “Stomp” showed how to be rhythmic with every day items; “Tap Dogs” made tap dance cool by having it executed by jeans-wearing hunks. “Riverdance” did irish dance. Blast did brass. And the Moscow State Circus, the Guangdong Acrobatic Troop and of course Cirque Du Soleil aren’t going anywhere either.
To this roll call of variety acts we should now add Korean Drum – an entertaining if noisy 60 minutes in which 16 Korean performers knock several kinds of hell out of drums of various shapes and sizes. Rhythm and power are the watch words and it’s hard not to be impressed by the energy they hurl in our direction.
As with those earlier shows, there’s the obligatory (un)funny ice-breaker in the middle – in this case a performer with an eccentric hairpiece who hobbles around the stage as if he’s an old man or has severe haemmeroids (I was unclear which, and why) but then does an impressive plate twirling routine, even getting someone from the audience to help him. When he and the others let loose their ribbon twirling while the rest pound their drums one could almost hear the audience’s eyebrows rising and their jaws dropping.
The fact that it sustains interest, by and large, for its hour duration when the majority of it is a bunch of people with seemingly no English language skills (we hear “Yeah!” a few times) banging drums very loudly is testament to the skill and verve they let loose for our entertainment. There’s also a distinctive sense of them wanting to please us, a humility about them wanting to give us a good time which many shows could learn from. It’s hard not to be won over by that.
It’s certainly worth banging a drum about. But don’t go if you have a headache.