Take Me Somewhere

Cuckoo, Tramway, Glasgow

four stars

Beige B*tch, CCA Glasgow

two stars

Mary Brennan

In South Korea, where Jaha Koo was born and raised, a Cuckoo is a rice cooker. He’s brought three along. Each little pressure cooker has a name and two of them are very talkative. So funny! so cute! But as Koo’s performance progresses, the Cuckoos embody pressure of another kind. In 1997, financial meltdown led South Korea to accept a 55-billion dollar bailout from the IMF: it came with stringent fiscal conditions. Decades on, and thirty-something Koo – soft-spoken, unhistrionic – looks back at how those measures blighted the lives of old and young alike, drained future aspirations from his own generation and caused an upsurge of depression and suicides even to this day.

Koo himself relocated to Europe, and perhaps that ‘escape’ adds a kind of haunted sorrow to his narrative. His monologues and his music are interspersed with news footage revealing the angst and aggression that erupted in the wake of National Humiliation Day (1997), while his personal experiences - including the suicide of a close friend – are the human witness to a factual history that was, in part, inflicted by the West’s interference. A chirpy video of Gretchen Rubin, talking about happiness, has Koo quietly inform us that her father-in-law, Robert Rubin - Secretary of the U.S. Treasury in 1997 – helped dash all hopes of happiness for countless South Koreans. His dignified calm makes this, and other truths, all the more harrowing in what is a powerfully affecting work.

There are serious issues about colour and gender, racial and cultural identity, all clamouring to be heard in Beige B*tch but the character of BB - created and performed by Nima Séne - is so busy strutting her showbiz glam stuff on-stage and on-screen that it’s hard to pay them much attention. A shame, really. Her riffs on being ‘beige’ – and how this inbetween colour is perceived in terms of her ethnicity – are cogently provocative despite BB’s posturings.