Darkness Poomba at The PlaceCultureTheatre
Part of K-Music, London’s festival of Korean music, Darkness Poomba is a ten-year-old piece by the company Modern Table that has toured regularly around the world and was now requested by The Place for a London show. The starting point of this project is the concept of the Poomba, an ancient tradition that sees travelling street performers sing and entertain crowds to earn their food. Traditional Korean music and dance are reprised by choreographer Kim Jae-Duk and transformed into an urgent and passionate cry inspired by modern times.
A group of male dancers dressed in smart black suits explore the bare space with a mix of free movement and perfectly synchronised sequences. Dance dominates the hour-long show, but a vocalist and a rock band provide the powerful and at times eerie soundtrack that gives life to the piece. The music, an atmospheric mix of traditional Korean sounds and contemporary rock, is in perfect synchrony with the dancers’ every move and jerk. The performers’ timing is remarkable and their vigour seemingly boundless.
The energy is very high for the most part and thus impossible to maintain from beginning to end, so the tempo inevitably slackens occasionally. There is no solid thread that unites the choreographies and the show does not try to convey a specific message. During transitions, therefore, when the dancers and musicians are not pulling the audience in with their charm, there are brief blank moments that leave spectators wondering where they are being led.
While it may lose its grip on the audience’s attention at times, and leave them looking for meaning without success, ultimately the piece can only attract praise due to the artists’ incredible talent and untiring effort. Darkness Poomba is also a wonderful introduction to the atmospheres of Korean performing arts that will doubtless inspire audiences towards further exploration.
Photo: Layza Vasconcelos
Darkness Poomba is at The Place from 24th until 25th October 2016, for further information or to book visit here.