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Rimbaud, the Man with Soles of Wind

The first creative musical about the famous poet Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud, who made his debut at the age of sixteen and ended his writing career at twenty, is now showing on Daehak-ro. The musical Rimbaud received production support from the Korean Culture and Arts Committee. On the 43rd day of showing, Rimbaud succeeded in opening an overseas performance, gaining the title of overseas expansion in the shortest time. The musical also held its premiere in Korea and China at the same time. The Sungkyun Times (SKT) will now review the performance that returned after a year since its premiere success.

About Arthur Rimbaud

Arthur Rimbaud: Life of a Gifted French Poet

Jean Nicholas Arthur Rimbaud at Age 17 / Étienne Carjat

Rimbaud is a creative musical that dramatizes the life of Arthur Rimbaud, a real French poet. So it would be even more interesting if the audience knows about Rimbaud’s life before watching the show. Rimbaud had many nicknames including “born wanderer”, “cursed poet”, and “precocious rebel”. As the names suggest, he lived a life full of ups and downs. He was born in 1854 in Ardennes, a province in Northeastern France. Under the disciplines of his Catholic mother, he had a strict upbringing when he was a child. In 1871, Rimbaud sent two letters (letters of seer) to his mentor Izambard and his friend Paul Demeny, and argued that “a poet needs to be a seer.” This is the start of his “seer theory”, which helps people to understand his dynamic life. Rimbaud believed that a poet should gain an insight into the universe through the degradation of all of one’s senses. The same year, he left his parents’ home and met a famous poet called Paul-Marie Verlaine who was receiving attention from the French literary world at that time. Then at the age of 17, Rimbaud fell in love and moved in with Verlaine who was 27 at the time. “The Man with Soles of Wind” is a famous nickname of Rimbaud given by Verlaine, which symbolizes Rimbaud’s wandering life to seek genuine deterioration of the senses. In 1873, however, Rimbaud and Verlaine fought because of their financial situation and Verlaine fired a gun at Rimbaud. Although Rimbaud was not fatally wounded, Verlaine was indicted and went to jail. At the same time, the recovered Rimbaud returned to his old home and began writing a book about his life with Verlaine. The title of his book was Une Saison en Enfer, which means “A Season in Hell”. Unfortunately, the society at that time considered homosexuality as a sin and his book was disregarded by the world. The failure to publish caused him to announce the end of his writing career. After the announcement, Rimbaud went to Africa in 1880, but he had his leg amputated because of the development of an abscess on his leg and died after a few months.

The Creative Musical, Rimbaud

Basic Information of the Musical

The musical was initially planned for in 2016 and was designed for over three years. Kang Byeong-won and Kim Soo-ro were the main producers, Seong Jong-wan took the main director role, and Yoon Hee-kyeong wrote the script. It had its premiere at the end of 2018 and its second run plays from September 7th, 2019 to December 1st, 2019.

Running Time 120 minutes (without intermission)
Concert Hall 21, Daehak-ro 12-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul (YES24 Stage)
Ticket Prices ₩66,000 for R seats, ₩44,000 for S seats

Main Plot of the Musical

There are three main characters: Rimbaud, Verlaine, and Delahaye, a hometown friend of Rimbaud. The musical mainly deals with their life stories with a focus on their pursuit of dreams and happiness. Rimbaud starts with Delahaye and Verlaine’s meeting to look for the last poems written by Rimbaud that are known to be in Africa. The audience can enjoy Rimbaud’s turbulent life through the journey because Verlaine and Delahaye continue to recall their memories of Rimbaud. The musical continuously throws up questions about true happiness and the meaning of life through the three characters’ lyrics, poetry, and journey.

The Characteristics of Musical Rimbaud

➊ The Masters’ Poetry Turned into Music

In the musical, the actors’ lines and numbers are created based on the beautiful poetry of Rimbaud and Verlaine. Among them, the most famous poems are Rimbaud’s “The Drunken Boat”, which describes the imaginative sea that Rimbaud has never visited, and “A Season in Hell” which embodies Rimbaud’s distress and conflict. There is a total of 20 numbers which are based on 17 different poems by Rimbaud and Verlaine. The audience can also expect to enjoy the musical’s songs and stage lighting that depict the actors’ emotions.

➋ The Merging of Space and Time

Because the musical’s main story is the journey of Delahaye with Verlaine, Rimbaud and the two poets’ memories intersect occasionally. There are three main timeframes: (1) Rimbaud and Delahaye’s hometown memories when they were young, (2) the time Rimbaud and Verlaine had their impressive encountering, and (3), the time after Rimbaud’s death.

Poster of the Premiere Performance / doublekfnt.com

SKT’s Review & Conclusion

Although the main story of the musical is two poets’ journey in search of Rimbaud’s last poems, the central story that penetrates the musical is the happiness of the three poets. Prior to the journey, the characters suffered from their situations which made them unhappy. For instance, Rimbaud thought he could not feel happy because he had to degenerate and destroy himself to have clairvoyant power by experiencing the limit. Verlaine suffered from his gloomy condition which made it difficult for him to write poetry. Delahaye suffered from an identity crisis. However, after finding Rimbaud’s diary in Africa, Verlaine realized that it was Rimbaud’s last poetry and the course of Rimbaud’s life itself was a journey in pursuit of happiness. The most memorable line was the advice that Rimbaud gave to Verlaine, “Your life as a poet should focus on writing poetry and you must not think about other things.” The paragraph expresses Rimbaud who dedicated his entire life to poetry. His passion for poetry is surprising and overwhelming. However, from a different point of view, one cannot help thinking that a lifestyle like his will end abnormally. The musical reminded the audience of the question, “Can ordinary people not only try their best but also dedicate their lives to realizing their dreams?”

이지원  leejiwon0213@naver.com'

<저작권자 © THE SUNGKYUN TIMES, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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