Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Comedy and drama

There is a TV series running at the moment called Death in Paradise. It is described as a comedy drama but is in fact not in the least funny or dramatic. It has reminded me of something I once saw many years ago in Pyongyang, also with Paradise in its title; this was tremendously dramatic as well as funny, though the comedy was unintentional.

It was a sort of musical, though in The Democratic People's Republic of Korea they call them revolutionary operas. As I have noted before, the musical theatre thrives in Pyongyang as nowhere else; this production was in 1976, but there is no reason to suppose that this and similar productions are not still going on and on like a lot of mousetraps.

It was, and probably still is, called Song of Paradise, a "heightened paean for the advantages and great vitality of our socialist system... another monumental masterpiece adding radiance to the great flourishing Juche art... a high tribute to the illustrious line on literature and art enunciated by the respected and beloved leader".

The number being sung here is the first act closer, called A Love Much Deeper Than the Deepest Sea, and they sing:
Our fatherly leader's love that is warm and unlimited...
Our hearts throbbed with emotion profound
When he hugged us still damp from the sea-wind.

... though no doubt it has lost something in translation. The scene comes at the moment when "Deep-sea fishermen are moved to tears to hear the glad news that they will enjoy one-month holidays with their families in Mt Kumgang-san thanks to the Great and Respected Leader's loving care and attention."

It looks to me as if two quite separate announcements are being made simultaneously, one stage left and one stage right, and I cannot remember why this was, but anyway it was a splendid ensemble number. They all seemed very happy in their stylish deep-sea fishing uniforms.

The G and R Leader referred to here is, of course, the late Kim Il Sung whom we called Chubby-Chops when none of his subjects were listening, and it may be that by now the lyrics have been amended to transfer the credit to his son Kim Jong Il, the Dear Leader.



Grumio said...

And you're quite sure that's not BIng Crosby, fourth from right?

Tony said...

No no, that was Kim Jong Kelly

Froog said...

Deep-sea fishermen, eh? I was thinking it might have been HMS Pinafore for a moment.

I must demand tickets to this, or a show like it, next time I nip over to Pyongyang.

Tony said...

I do urge you not to do it, Froog.
I can write about DPRK theatre light-heartedly now, after thirty-six years have passed, but for a long time the depression engendered by having to sit through their revolutionary operas sat heavily on my mind.

The hilarious bits are few and far between and the hours of unutterable tedium in between will blow your mind.

Grumio said...

Tony you perfectly describe a night at that world-famous Fringe theatre (much lamented scene of Western imperialist decadence until 1999 when it became a Wimpy) The Little Crumdump Round The Back.

Or an episode of My Family.