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Slicing and dicing airborne carrots, onions, cabbages on stage

IN Korean, the word nanta means "to strike relentlessly." It is also the name of one of South Korea's most popular theater performances, which will be staged in the open air at the Oriental Shopping Center tomorrow night.

Premiered in 1997, "Nanta" is South Korea's first non-verbal theater work presented through music and body movements. The music is a combination of traditional Korean folk music tempos and modern Western musical styles.

There is also a storyline with a lot of comic scenes so the audience won't feel bored when there is no dialogue. The story is set in the kitchen, where four characters - three men and one woman - use kitchenware and vegetables as instruments and tools.

"We wanted to make a special performance that could startle the world," explains producer Lee Kwang-Ho. "So we needed something appealing to everyone and also something that could be understood worldwide."

Everything used in the play is real. Each performance requires at least five carrots, five onions, five cucumbers, six cabbages, one kilogram of flour, red and green pepper, salad oil, meat sauce, mayonnaise and many other ingredients.

All the actors must be skilled in knife play and sometimes that can be dangerous. Thus, they take three to six months of training to learn many tricks and skills.

"Still, they injure themselves while performing with knives from time to time," he says. "But usually the audience won't be able to tell."

There have been changes of kitchen "instruments" in the past 12 years but the chopping board and drums are used in every show.

"Practicing, especially constantly hitting tools like knives and drumsticks can be quite exhausting," Lee says. "That's why the most important attribute of a Nanta performer is that he/she must have a passion for the performance and for Korean culture as well."

During its debut in Shanghai, the actors will use cookware sponsored by German manufacturer Fissler, including a pot made of 13-carat diamonds and 1kg of gold. Known as the world's most expensive pot, it costs 3.8 million yuan (US$556,370).

Date: May 23, 7:30pm

Venue: Oriental Shopping Center, 8 Caoxi Rd N.


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