Is how I can describe Mia Chung’s new play You For Me For You at the Royal Court Theatre.
So I was sitting in my seat, getting ready in my head intellectual things I can say about North Korea after the play was over. I quickly googled “Best nation in the world” and “Kim Jong-un facts”. But when the play started, I knew I was in for something different.
An hour and a half with no interval later, I wanted to grab someone to discuss what I had seen. First of all – the set, props and costume were very ‘Alice in Wonderland-ish’, with a random bear popping up into scene. I was not intelligent enough to get the metaphor. The use of the set was incredibly clever (maybe at times a little distracting) with flaps and floors opening up and the small space completely believably transformed to be a small apartment in North Korea, or a magical room with rice floating everywhere. I had to get that out of the way because the set for You For Me For You is spectacular because it helped to carry the play.
Now the story. It was essentially about two sisters – Minhee (Wendy Kweh) and Junhee (Katie Leung) who want to make a break from the totalitarianism of North Korea. Junhee makes it and escapes to New York, while Minhee falls down a well and also falls into an alternative, after-life-ish kind of Korea. That’s all well and good and I believe that the strength of this play is how relatable I found an unknown going to an unknown land and trying to live amongst strange ascents, foods and culture. It instantly made me think of my dad leaving Nigeria for the adventure and unfailing hope that England has something a lot better to offer. Then there was this other Korea that Minhee was living in. It was beautifully bizarre, much of which I didn’t completely get, but loved being taken along on the ride. The direction from Richard Twyman was genius and dramatic and all the things outlandish should be.
To me this play took a simple story of sisters wanting to better their lives after living with grief, poverty and uncertainty and turned it into a fantasy, willing the women to discover all that the Land of the Free has to offer but knowing that there is always a sacrifice. And it definitely had me feeling like I had fallen down someone’s rabbit hole.
You For Me For You is on at the Royal Court Theatre until 9th January 2016.