Veteran actor Yu In-chon reprises role as Hamlet

Ashley Song, June 8, 2016, 9:56 a.m.


Not only does this production of “Hamlet” commemorate the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, it also commemorates the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late director Lee Hae-rang, who staged Shakespeare for the first time in Korea in 1949. 

This year’s anniversary celebration of Shakespeare’s classic tale is slated to open next month with an all-star lineup of veteran stage actors including Kwon Seong-deok, Park Jeong-ja and Yu In-chon. The production’s nine-member cast has a combined average age of 68.2 years, with the youngest actor being 60 years old. 

Leading theater icon Yu, who also served as the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism from 2008 to 2011, will be reprising his leading role of Hamlet for the first time in 16 years, at the ripe age of 65. The upcoming production will mark the sixth time he is playing the role of Hamlet. 

“For me to be reprising the role of Hamlet at my age is definitely a lot of pressure for me,” said Yu, during a press conference at the National Theater of Korea in Seoul on Tuesday. 

“However, with this production, our old age is something that all the cast members have in common, so it was easier for us to put our age out of our minds. As for the audience I hope that our experience as stage actors will help them overlook our physical age,” he added. 

The upcoming production “Hamlet” is particularly meaningful when considering the history of Shakespeare in Korea. 

The first complete Korean translation of a Shakespearean play was “Hamlet” by Hyun Chul in 1922 and “Hamlet” was also the first Shakespeare play to ever be staged in the country thanks to the efforts of director Lee nearly seven decades ago.  

Since its first staging in 1949, the classic “Hamlet” continues to be the most frequently performed of all Shakespearean plays in Korea. 

“In 1989, I was playing the role of Hamlet with director Lee Hae-rang and he passed away one week before the show was scheduled to open,” said Yu. “To this day I remember it vividly. It was heartbreaking.” 

The upcoming production is a collaboration between the National Theater of Korea and mega musical production house Seensee Company, with its president Park Myung-sung acting as the show’s artistic director. 

“Just being able to be a part of this production makes my heart pound. I am very excited,” said Park during the press conference. “This is one of those types of productions where I definitely feel grave responsibility on my shoulders.” 

“I hope this production will give a huge boost of energy and life to the stagnant theatrical scene,” he added.  

“Hamlet” will also star Jeon Mu-song, Son Sook, Jung Dong-hwan, Kim Sung-nyu, Son Bong-sook and Yoon Seok-hwa. 

The play will run July 12-Aug. 8 at the National Theater of Korea’s Main Hall Hae. Ticket prices range from 30,000 won ($26) to 70,000. Tickets for opening night have already sold out. For more information, visit www.ntok.go.kr.

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