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Son Suk-ku makes comeback in highly anticipated play 'Army on the Tree'By Hwang Dong-hee
Published : July 3, 2023 - 20:43
South Korean actor Son Suk-ku, who emerged as one of the biggest stars of 2022 with the TV series “My Liberation Notes” and action blockbuster “The Roundup,” has made a comeback with the play “Army on the Tree.”
All tickets to the play, which was to run June 20-Aug. 5 at the LG Arts Center, have been sold out. The play has been extended by a week to Aug. 12, and the tickets for the extra shows have yet to go on sale.
When asked about the difference between acting on screen and on stage, Son said "there is no difference."
“They are essentially the same to me,” Son said during a press conference held last week at LG Arts Center.
“If you ask me what sets apart ‘The Roundup’ from ‘Army on the Tree,’ the difference lies in the story, not whether the former is a film and the latter is a play. The crucial thing is how to tell the story in an entertaining way.”
This is Son's first theater performance in nine years. Son’s last theater performance was in 2014 with the small theater play “Love is Burning.”
“I made the transition from the theater to films and dramas. And I wanted to see if my acting style would also resonate on the theater stage (after all these years),” he said.
"Army on the Tree" is a play based on the true story of two Japanese soldiers who survived for about two years by hiding in a tree in Okinawa, Japan, during the Pacific War in 1945, unaware of Japan's defeat. Inoue Hisashi began writing the play and Horai Ryuta finished the incomplete script and brought the production to life in 2013.
A female character, played by Choi Hee-seo, serves as the narrator, while the central focus is on a senior officer and a new recruit.
Son plays the role of the newly recruited soldier who joins the army to protect the island where he was born and raised, while the senior officer is performed by Lee Do-yeop and Kim Yong-jun as a double cast.
"Although the new recruit wears the uniform of a soldier, he is more like an innocent young man who lacks the mentality and spirit of a soldier," Son said.
"There was a stark disparity between the roles I have played so far (and this one). I wondered whether I could effectively portray such a pure-hearted, innocent soul.”
In particular, the relationship between the senior officer and the recruit is characterized by their reliance on each other for survival during the two-year isolation. But they also clash and harbor animosity toward each other.
The senior officer argues that being in the tree hideout is not a cowardly escape, but to observe the enemy, while the recruit, despite placing his trust in his superior, finds it frustrating that they are not fighting on the front lines of the war.
"While focusing on the relationship between the senior officer and the new recruit, I came to empathize with the young man because it made me reflect on my own relationship with my father,” said Son.
“Fathers are always right. (For example,) I have to go to bed at 10 p.m., and keep the TV volume below seven,” he said. “I may not always understand the reasons behind these rules, but I choose to follow them.”
Although the setting is far removed from the reality of most people in the audience, Son said he feels many would be able to empathize with the story.
"I think everyone experiences similar situations in their families, schools and workplaces. Different hierarchies, varying abilities and diverse experiences often lead to conflicts. However, these conflicts deteriorate primarily due to a lack of trust," Son added.
While the original play is rooted in the historical background of Okinawa -- closely associated with the historical context of war, nationalist ideology and discrimination against Okinawans, director Min Sae-rom said the specific background has been excluded as much as possible to enable the audience to relate to the story.
"We fight battles of faith every day in various aspects. The tragedy of war … also reveals how different our beliefs are,” Min said.
The present work also departs from the original in the role of the narrator. Choi takes on the role of a female narrator, who, in the actor's words, "embodies the spirit of the tree" that transcends any particular setting," offers insights into the dynamics at play between the senior officer and the new recruit. In the original work, the narrator through different costumes, songs and lines reminds the audience of a specific era and place.
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