John Han isn’t speaking gibberish, even though it may sound like it.
The Korean Canadian’s next role, a gibberish-speaking foreign pilot in Kaleidoscope Theatre’s Robinson & Crusoe, will rely on a variation of his native Korean to tackle the challenge of speaking, without communicating to, an enemy with whom he finds himself stranded on a floating rooftop. It was a role and a challenge Han immediately felt a personal connection to.
“I gravitated toward (this role) because I grew up as an English-second-language kid,” the Oak Bay resident said. “I came here at nine and had a lot of issues learning the language.”
Han said a modified, and sometimes intentionally jumbled, Korean will play the baseline for his speech, that weaves and intermingles sounds and phrases from his childhood as the gibberish needed to tell the tale, a production Kaleidoscope’s artistic director Roderick Glanville has wanted to bring to Victoria for many years.
“It is quite touching,” Glanville said. “I remember the first time seeing it (in 1985). It was so compelling because of its silence and the characters, I was sitting beside a five-year-old girl and at the end she was so moved she was crying because they found a way to co-operate.”
The script, originally written in Italian, deals with the issues of xenophobia on the backdrop of the Battle of Hong Kong, a battle that took place simultaneous to Pearl Harbour during the Second World War. Glanville said the play, which closes Kaleidoscope Theatre’s second annual Family Theatre Festival, would be one families connect with.
“I need to find work that appeals to a wider range and to be able to reach a young person with a simple story,” he said. “I remembered it, I never forgot it was the play l wanted to do from my past and this was the perfect place to do it.”
Set outdoors at Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgaard Lighthouse National Historic Site, the adaptation runs May 7 to 11, at the outdoor venue that will see the audience covered, but Han and co-lead Garry Garneau exposed to the elements that could change from performance to performance. On top of the additional challenge of only a week of rehearsals for the 1-hour and 15-minute show, the stress and workload is high, but Han is grateful to be here.
“It was a blessing, it is really nice and I am thankful for roles like (this). I would love for students to see the show. … And I want them to be connected,” he said. “I am a firm believer of being educated in the arts, not just to be an actor but for the betterment of team work and social understanding and understanding yourself.”
Kaleidoscope Family Theatre festival starts in Centennial Square with Theatre SKAM, SNAFU Dance Theatre and Kaleidoscope’s Teen Ensemble from May 1 to 4. Robinson & Crusoe continues the festival May 7 to 11 at Fort Rodd Hill & Fisgard Lighthouse. Tickets start at $10 and can be purchased at ticketrocket.org.