WHAT REMAINS OF US Comes to Bristol Old Vic in March

Performances run 3 – 12 March 2022.

By: Jan. 14, 2022

WHAT REMAINS OF US Comes to Bristol Old Vic in March

When an armistice was declared to halt the Korean War in 1953, hundreds of thousands of families were left divided on either side of the Korean Demilitarised Zone: since 2000, nineteen reunions have been organised by the state with a select few invited across the border to temporarily reunite with family they have not seen in over fifty years. After these reunions they will never meet again.

Based on these extraordinary events where families meet for a limited number of hours over the course of a handful of meetings, What Remains of Us imagines one such reunion, between a woman living in Seoul and the father she hasn't seen since she was three, who lives in North Korea's capital Pyongyang. Writer David Lane and director Sita Calvert-Ennals have gathered together hours of interviews and transcriptions, including those from participants and the Red Cross in South Korea, to create a powerful, personal and political play that asks: what do you say after 50 years apart?

Seung-Ki hasn't seen her father Kwan-Suk since she was three. Separated by one of the world's most militarised borders, they come face to face again in this compelling story based on the state-organised temporary reunions of divided Korean families. With intelligence agencies and the global media looking on, can father and daughter confront their past and find a connection in the present? This raw, moving and at times absurdly funny new play is an urgent response to international debates around borders and the human stories at their centre.

Kwong Loke (founding member of New Earth Theatre, formerly Yellow Earth, credits include The Great Wave, National Theatre; Pah-la, Royal Court) and Jung Sun Den Hollander (the Ghost in Killing Eve) play father and daughter Kwan-Suk and Seung-Ki as they meet for the first time in fifty years.

In addition to the writing and production of the play, David Lane and Sita Calvert-Ennals have been working with students from Korea National University of Arts in Seoul and Bath Spa University to explore their own personal experiences of separation, which will be captured in a series of short films to share with audiences at theatres and online.

David Lane said, "This story is an expression of the ordinary and the utterly extraordinary: an intimate family reunion holding within it a complex global historical narrative. The piece couldn't be more urgent for our times, with so many people experiencing separation from home and family. What Remains Of Us revolves around still unresolved tensions in a country that has suffered instability, invasion and division for over a hundred years: but it is an uplifting story of human survival and the triumph of love and hope over war, political oppression, enforced boundaries and corrupted leadership.

Sita Calvert-Ennals said, "We are excited to be bringing this new play to Bristol Old Vic this Spring, in which a father and daughter must confront deeply held secrets about their pasts and how they have survived fifty years of enforced separation. Audiences can expect a show full of atmospherics - sometimes taught like a thriller, sometimes heart-rending and sometimes light and surreal. I'm working closely with sound designer Duncan Speakman to weave together sound and storytelling. We are also thrilled to have support from Korea National University of Arts, and our Korean collaborators Ha Young Hwang and Minjae Kang are working with us to create a play that is inspired by and feels rooted in the unique context of a divided Korea, but that has universal appeal and relevance."

The reunions between separated North and South Korean families are state arranged events, taking place over two or three days, and have a heavy media presence. Conversations are monitored, gifts restricted, and a guidebook is provided by the Red Cross in South Korea warning against expressions that might put North Korean family members in a 'difficult situation'. After the first event in 1985, the exchange was discontinued and not restarted until 2000. The most recent events were in 2015 and 2018.

Director Sita Calvert-Ennals has been directing new writing for the past 18 years. She has worked for theatres including Bristol Old Vic, Sherman Cymru, National Theatre Wales, Bath Theatre Royal, Theatre Bristol and Tobacco Factory Theatres. She is Co-Artistic Director of her theatre company Invisible Ink. Recent productions include The Depraved Appetite of Tarrare the Freak, for Wattle and Daub , and The Terrible Things I've Done for Invisible ink . She is currently developing productions with the Minack theatre and Wales Millennium Centre. Sita is Senior Lecturer at Bath Spa University and teaches on the BA Drama degree and MA Directing programme.

Writer David Lane is currently under commission from Forest Forge and was the recipient of Papatango's Write West commission in 2019. He was nominated for the Meyer-Whitworth Award in 2011 for Begin/End and has written for The Egg (I Am England), Tobacco Factory Theatres/Blue Brook Productions (Stalin's Daughter), Half Moon (Off The Grid), Chichester Festival Theatre and The British School of Beijing. He is a published dramaturg and an Associate of Goldsmiths College.

Performances run 3 - 12 March 2022.

Tickets: bristololdvic.org.uk | 0117 987 7877


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