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NTCK to celebrate 100th Seoul performance of ‘The Orphan of Zhao’

Nov. 20, 2023 - 15:43 By Hwang Dong-hee
A scene from "The Orphan of Zhao" by the National Theater Company of Korea (NTCK)

The National Theater Company of Korea is set to captivate audiences once more with its signature production, "The Orphan of Zhao: Seeds of Revenge," returning with its sixth run at the Myeongdong Theater in central Seoul from Nov. 30 to Dec. 25.

Premiered in 2015, “The Orphan of Zhao” is a reinterpretation of the Chinese "Zaju" drama script of the same title, written by the Yuan Dynasty playwright Ji Junxiang. Among the six Zaju plays he wrote, “The Orphan of Zhao” is the only surviving example.

Often referred to as the Chinese “Hamlet” because of its theme of revenge, the tragedy has been adapted by director Koh Sun-woong, who focused the narrative on the man who sacrifices his only child to save the "seed of revenge."

A scene from "The Orphan of Zhao" by the National Theater Company of Korea (NTCK)

Consumed by a thirst for power, Gen. Tu’an Gu ruthlessly exterminates the Zhao family. Cheng Ying, the family doctor, sacrifices his own child and wife in a desperate effort to save the sole survivor of the unjustly decimated Zhao clan. Cheng gives the orphaned Zhao the name Cheng Bo and raises him as his own son.

For many years, Gen. Tu’an remains oblivious to Cheng Ying’s true intentions. He believes that Cheng is his loyal ally and takes Cheng Bo under his wing. When Cheng Bo comes of age, Cheng Ying reveals the tragic history of the Zhao family and implores the young man to take revenge on Gen. Tu’an.

The play delves into the meaning of revenge and the vanity behind vengeance, while it also questions the characteristics of a good leader.

Koh’s 2015 production earned a number of awards in Korea, including at the 52nd Dong-A Theater Awards. In October 2016, the NTCK brought the Korean rendition of the play to the National Theater of China in Beijing.

A scene from "The Orphan of Zhao" by the National Theater Company of Korea (NTCK)

The upcoming run will mark the production's 100th performance in Seoul, a milestone performance that will take place at 3 p.m. on Dec. 2.

The cast, including stalwarts who have been part of the production since its premiere, will remain unchanged. Lee Hyong-hun will continue to portray Cheng Bo, Ha Sung-kwang will play Cheng Ying, and Chan Due-yee will take the role of Gen. Tu’an Gu. Joining the cast is Park Seung-hwa, taking on the role of the Zhao orphan Cheng Bo in a double casting.

Following the performance on Dec. 10, director Koh and actors Ha and Chan, will host a talk session with the audience.

Korean subtitles will be provided every Monday and Friday, with Chinese subtitles on Thursdays and English subtitles on Sundays (except for Dec. 17).