“WHEN WE feel sad, let’s do laundry together.” Why would people do the laundry when they feel sad? The answer is shown in the musical Bbal-lae. Bbal-lae was first performed in 2005. Widely loved by audiences, it has been performed over 3,600 times. Now, the musical is heading for its 4,000th performance. Those who feel weary these days or need to recover from their harsh daily reality are invited to the musical. Bbal-laesymbolizes people’s painful memories, therefore doing the laundry means alleviating the pain from those moments. Come and enjoy the calming fragrance of the aromatic softener that emerges from the laundry.
A 10-year-old Korean musical now heads out to the world
The musical Bbal-lae(Laundry) has been consistently loved for over 10 years. Notably, almost no changes have been made to the script during those years. Although society has changed, the musical stays the same, since it continues to give the audience the same hopeful message. The musical has literary value and popular appeal, with a well-organized storyline that frankly depicts ordinary people’s lives. Bbal-laestarted as a graduate performance in the Korea National University of Arts. Then, in 2005, the musical was shown to the public by The National Theater of Korea. Notably, the musical won two awards for the script and lyrics in the 11th Korean Musical Awards, even though the performance had been shown only for two weeks.
The musical has now begun to gain popularity around the world, with its universal theme of hope. In May 2012, Bbal-lae made a contract with PureMarry, a Japanese production company. Bbal-lae was recorded as the first Korean piece performed in Mitsukoshi, a time-honored theater in Japan. Also, in January 2016, Korean actors staged an invitation performance at Shanghai’s SADC D6 studio. The musical Bbal-lae is thus on its way to surpassing the barriers of language and culture, striving to deliver its hopeful message all around the world.
A story of our neighbors
Bbal-lae paints stories of people who all came from different places and have led different lives, but are now gathered in the same place: Seoul. Na-young, the main character, is a 27-year-old woman who works in a bookstore. She lived in Gangwon-do, a province near the East Sea in Korea, for 22 years until she came to the capital city, Seoul, 5 years ago. She lives in a rented room and meets Solongo, her neighbor, on the rooftop while she is hanging out her laundry to dry. Solongo is a Mongolian man who works in a factory. It has been 5 years since he came to Korea to work, and he lives with a Filipino roommate called Michael. At first, Na-young avoided Solongo, who cannot communicate well in Korean. But she soon finds out how sincerely kind he has been to her all along and the two become inseparable confidants. The story shows how the two get closer while simultaneously showing the stories of their neighbors.
Bbal-lae is special in that it frankly portrays realistic stories of the working class with true-to-life dialogue. The musical reflects society in the most authentic way. Dialogues such as “The minimum wage is ₩ 6,030!” or “The bookstore does not even allow us maternity leave?” shows the realistic and problematic aspects of contemporary Korean society.
Bringing hope to those who feel weary
Bbal-lae is not the kind of musical that deals only with love and romance. The musical portrays diverse stories of our neighbors – sad, happy, and even frustrating ones. The different characters in the performance present varied stories, each highlighting a specific social issue. A range of challenging problems in Korean society, such as mistreatment of immigrant workers and disabled people, are portrayed in the musical with genuine force.
The background of this musical is a typical neighborhood in Seoul. A supermarket, inn, and a real estate agency are shown as the main settings. These realistic settings resemble real hometowns, arousing nostalgia from the audience. The color of the sky continually changes according to the time; this subtle detail sets a beautiful ambience to the performance.
After seeing the musical, audience members will find hope and feel encouraged by the characters’ cheerful conversations. Even though life is harsh, Bbal-lae shows that people can find hope and gain strength by just going on with their lives and drying their laundry together. The wet laundry symbolizes painful memories. They are uncomfortable and exhale a pungent smell when left unattended. In Bbal-lae, these wet pieces of laundry are taken out to dry, and painful memories left to evaporate.
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Bbal-lae maintains its popularity because of its good storyline, musical numbers that bring smiles and tears, and the perfect performances of the actors. The musical has consistently brought hope and laughter to audiences for over ten years. When you feel weary, go and do your laundry. Your sadness will dry out along with your laundry.
Date: March 10, 2016 ~ Feb. 23, 2017
Place: Dongyang Art Center Theater 1, Daehak-ro