Sam Lawrence interviews Ellen Eunji Kim, the Korean writer behind the new musical The Untitled preparation for the Melange Festival. The pair talks about the contradictions between the modern and the archaic, the writing process and the beauty of exploring purgatorial spaces on stage.
The Untilted, What’s it about?
It’s about a boy in a coma and he falls into this unknown world and finds out that he is not dead yet and he wants to return back to life. He meets this mysterious man named moa who is a top-ranking booksman within this organisation and he is asking him to help him return back to the real world.
Sounds like a journey story.
Yes, very much so.
In terms of the music, it sounds like a story that’s going to be quite touching. What kind of music can we expect to hear?
The music itself is emotional and has a marching feeling to show the power of the organisation and to show the contradiction between the system and the individual. It really has a power balance and a tension.
Do you think its a musical theatre sound?
It is. We’re trying to make that as much as possible. We’re a team of international students and our composer is also from Korea like me. So our goal is to work out the communication method between us and the British.
Have you found that a challenge?
It is. For example, just using the appropriate language! I’m from Korea and the language there is quite poetic, using metaphors and expression whereas in England it is more straightforward. I thought that was a big difference and that was a challenge.
It’s a big decision to bring Korean music or your own influence and communicate that to a British audience rather than just keep the Korean style.
To tell the truth, I’ve lived in many places when I was young. I was born in Korea, then lived for eight years in the states and then in London. That’s why I wanted to talk about London. It’s an urban fantasy, it talks about the London of now and the Britain of now. We had many conversations about that as there are many issues in London and how you as Brits might feel.
I wanted to ask about the setting. As a writer, to have a purgatorial space gives you great freedom to create an environment and a space. How has that been as part of the writing process?
We are taking the feeling between the Victorian and the modern. It’s like for us it has been the difference between analogue and digital. So we think of England and fountain pens but in reality, at university everyone is typing. I went to school in London and we were taught how to write with a fountain pen and then I came back 15 years later and everyone is typing.
That’s really interesting considering London is a city that has been built on and changed so much. I was just talking to Adam and Jack about their processes, has yours been similar or has it been more devised.
No, it has been more devised. I like working with a composer and listening to the producers. Especially with the Melange festival, it was borne out of the producers and now we have a director who gives really bold feedback so it’s very collaborative.
Are you showing the full show in September?
Yes, I think audiences expect to see the whole story.
I agree, especially when you have a journey; you want to see the arrival. Back to the music briefly but have you found that juxtaposition between new and old coming out?
Yes, in a way. It’s not the key thing within the music but the composer has found a few motifs that bring that out. It’s a fantasy so we wanted to keep it light and accessible.
Great, really looking forward to the show. Thanks for speaking with us!