Giving him the boot

August 5, 2010 at 6:00 pm (East Asian Shakespeare, Eastern Performance, Intercultural Performances)

Romeo and Juliet, directed by Oh Tae-Suk and performed by Mokwha Repertory, Korea (continued from previous post).

I forgot to mention in my last post about Romeo and Juliet’s marriage night.  When an eager Romeo turned up, he began to undress his new wife: first her outer dress, then her hairpiece (which comically came away in his hand) etc etc. But when he got down to Juliet’s shift, she pushed him away and presented him instead with her white-bootied foot.  In Laos and Thailand it is incredibly rude to point your foot at somebody.  I wondered if this was the same here, for she seemed to be kicking him away, indicating that he couldn’t remove anything else until the boot had come off.  Was she rejecting him?  This game continued for some time, causing delighted giggles among the children in the audience. My programme notes informed me, however, that according to Korean tradition, ‘when a woman exposes her foot/ankle to a man she is intimating that he can have her’ (Rivka Jacobson, p5).   If only love were that simple, for Juliet refused to point her ankle, making it virtually impossible to remove the boot.  Eventually, the boot was removed, and Romeo could join Juliet underneath the sheets, but she had slipped out of the other side of the bed, extinguished the lamp and nicked the matches.  Romeo found himself rolled up in the sheet until he was nothing more than a long phallic tube of cloth, unable to stay upright despite the best attempts of Juliet to release him… After a considerable time, not to mention lots of gasping and panting, he finally broke free, finally embracing his wife –  just as the lights went up, dawn broke and the cock crowed.  This episode funny and rather suggestive scene was described euphemistically by Jacobson as the teenagers’ ‘playful and humorous encounter, pregnant with allegory’…

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