A striking angel arrives on earth to visit an elderly woman and her son, who have been living in the forest to escape their transgressions. Before long, the angel and the son are married and with the arrival of their own child, they form a comfortable family unit. But the couple’s happiness quickly turns to miserable exile when the son is forced into military uniform and the innocent angel must sacrifice her body to save her infant and Mother-in law.

This production of The Angel and The Woodcutter presented by the Korean Cho-In Theatre Company begins as an archetypal fairytale, but eventually transcends the limitations of folklore and brings to the surface a dynamic vision of a world that has been ravaged by war. We see the pain and damage that it reaps on its victims and its ability to ruin relationships, homes and ultimately, lives.

The presentation is poetic and deeply moving. Folksy and contemporary music, as well as simple, but imaginative set pieces are coupled with tremendously visceral performances by the 5 actors. The expression in their mime and movement is more inspired and affecting than anything else that I have seen on stage recently.

The direction and choreography is also worth making a note of here. There is a scene at the turning point of the story when the Woodcutter’s hut is surrounded by troops in silver masks and a general uses a baton to conduct an orchestra of steady annihilation. The effects of this moment are simultaneously enthralling and frightening.

Other highlights include the exciting musical score, which segues from a sparse Oriental soundtrack to a blistering synthesised production.

In the end, The Angel and the Woodcutter is a multicultural parable about our humanity and how this can be lost in the midst of a savage war.

- Omar Kholeif