Elder scholar Faust who was well-versed in all studies of the human world was confident that the human world can be changed once the truth piercing the universe is obtained. However, he soon fell into nihilism. A demon named Mephistopheles secretly approached Faust and whispered to sell his soul in return for giving him passion. Faust agreed to the demon’s proposal. Would the god give Faust played by Kim Sung-nyu a chance of salvation?
The queen of madangnori Kim Sung-nyu is returning as Dr. Faust in the new piece titled “Faust Ending” by the National Theater Company of Korea to be unveiled on February 26. This is the first time in about four years since her last appearance in a new piece. It is also garnering attention in South Korea as this is the first time that a female actor will play the role of Dr. Faust. “Faust was such a coveted role for a female actor. I finally got the opportunity to play the role 30 years into my acting career,” said Kim in the building of the National Theater Company of Korea on Monday. “Please see me as ‘Kim Sung-nyu the Faust,’ rather than a ‘female Faust.”
The piece was initially planned to be showcased in April last year but it fell through as she suffered a shoulder injury while practicing and the COVID-19 spread. “I was full of energy and passion last year but now I took a step back to calmly look into the piece, which is a better situation for Dr. Faust,” she said.
Director Jo Kwang-hwa dramatized the piece by maintaining the basic structure of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s original piece and abridging and twisting it to 115 minutes. Dr. Faust is featured as a gentle and pleasant person except when he is in torment while Mephistopheles to be played by Park Wan-kyu is depicted as a playful and adorable demon. “As long as the essence of a classic piece is delivered, different methodologies can be adopted to get closer with the public,” said Kim. “There will be nobody in the audience dozing off.” This is in line with Kim’s philosophy about art as an art director of the National Changgeuk Company of Korea since 2012, successfully catching the essence of Korean traditional narrative “chang” and its popular appeal.
It may come to a surprise that she will play the role of an old male scholar but Kim is familiar with playing male roles. “I enjoy breaking stereotypes,” she said. Kim played Hong Gil-dong in the “The Biography of Hong Gildong” and Horatioin in “Hamlet.” Her voice quickly changes from a command of a general to a charming high tone. She masterfully plays over 30 roles in a one-man play.
“If there’s any role model in my life, it is not a person but pansori,” she said. “The Korean classical music, which requires a performer to play various roles from Chunhyang to Byun Hak-do in one piece, is the foundation of my solid acting and singing.” She also added that her appearance that looks natural dressed as a male is part of the reason why she is often chosen for male roles. “I wish to look at myself on stage in person,” she smiled.