Seoul wasn’t all just shopping and sightseeing (well it mostly was on this trip) – I had the good luck to catch 2 popular all-Korean non-verbal comedy shows in the evenings. After all the walking, sightseeing and shopping, it was great to just kick back in the air-conditioned theatres and enjoy a good break!
Nanta and Jump are the not only the 2 most well known comedy shows in Seoul, they’re also frequently listed as ‘must-sees’ for tourists. One would imagine that the language barrier would be a problem, but what both shows had in common was that there isn’t very much dialogue in the show. And if there was any dialogue at all, it was peppered with the occasional English word and you had enough context clues from the physical actions that you didn’t really need to understand exactly what they were saying anyway!
Both shows were quite funny and had me laughing out loud, hoping not to spoil it too much for anyone who wants to watch it so I’m not going to delve into the details (there are videos below for those who want a taste)… I also loved that they had great audience participation moments where they pull up unsuspecting members of the audience to help out in the performance, hilarity ensues and it makes every performance a different experience!
Because the shows play almost everyday, and quite often more than once a day , there are many different teams that play the various roles, so you might not see the same set of actors that your friend saw previously.
If you’re planning to catch one or both shows, you should probably check out the Sejongbelt Ticketing and Information booth at Gwanghwamun Square ( in front of the main Gyeongbokgung gate, Gwanghwamun), where the Admiral and King Sejong statue are. It’s open from 10.30am – 8.30pm daily and provides lots of great discounts for arts and culture stuff in the surrounding Sejong area. From the brochure I picked up, Nanta and Jump (under the non verbal category) tickets came as a package with the Bank of Korea museum tour for just 54,000 won (my tix cost 100,000 won in total)… That’s some significant savings! Definitely worth checking out in the start of your trip so you can plan accordingly…
More about the individual shows below!
Cookin’ or Nanta is set in the kitchen of a Korean restaurant with 5 main characters – 4 chefs and a restaurant manager, and your main plot is that they’re rushing to prepare a wedding banquet to prepare in just 1 hour! The plot is mostly an excuse for them to bang around with all sorts of kitchen utensils, creating great rhythms and beats with unusual instruments that will have you bobbing your head along.
Here’s a video if you want a preview!
I went in not knowing what it would be about, other than that it was kinda like the Stomp musical, only Korean and set in a kitchen, but it was pretty good fun! The characters were all entertaining, slapstick jokes that were funny, and the percussion stuff was also pretty creative and cool. I’d definitely recommend watching it!
Sit near the edge and at the front if you a chance and getting picked to participate on stage… bonus is you’ll get to keep the stagewear that they give you! Do join in by clapping along when they ask you to (my audience even managed to make the actor crack up) and watch out for the flying balls!
Location: Myeongdong Nanta Theatre
I caught my show in Myeongdong (The theatre’s near the H&M store), and the ticket counter is on the 3rd level, same floor as the theatre (not on the ground floor where there’s a closed and now defunct booth which you can see in the picture… had me wondering why the booth was closed even before the show).
They’re pretty relaxed in this theatre, and you can buy in snacks and take pictures if you want. I popped into the Burger King across the road to grab a quick snack before catching the show, but there’s lots of street food if you like that sorta thing, and Myeongdong has lots of food options if you have more time…
There’s also lots to do around the area, with Myeongdong for shopping, and sights like N Seoul Tower, Namsangol Hanok and Namdaemun in fairly close proximity, so you could probably cover some of that first and use the Nanta show as a nice break to enjoy some aircon and rest those tired feet.
There are 3 Nanta theatres in Seoul: Myeongdong, Hongdae, Gangbuk Jeongdong, and another theatre in Jeju island.
Ticket Price: 50,000 won
3 tiers available – 40,000, 50,000 or 60,000 won.
You can book your tickets online first… probably best if you’re in a group! I signed up for an account but I couldn’t seem to get it to work for me, so I bought tickets that evening itself at the counter. Was pretty lucky though, there weren’t many seats left, but since I was just looking for a single seat I managed a 50,000 won ticket in the center and on the stage level. Though I was right at the back of the section, I still had a pretty good view of the stage. Would definitely recommend booking ahead of time!
Show Time: 8pm
Myeongdong has shows at 5pm and 8pm every day, with an additional show at 2pm on Saturdays. The show is 100 mins long but it really flies by!
Check out the booking website for the timings at the other theatres.
Jump is a slapstick musical that combines humour and awesome taekwando moves into 2 hours of pure entertainment – replace your broadway dancers with kick-ass kungfu masters and this is what you’ll end up with! It follows a day in the life of a Korean family whose members are all martial arts experts of some sort, and how they train, handle an impending engagement and eventually fend off a pair of bumbling intruders who attack their house.
It’s pretty slapstick humour, but the fancy martial arts moves really make it stand out! It’s pretty fabulous what they can all do, especially the bit at the end where they’re all prancing across the stage and showing off. Also, watch out for that hobbling old narrator who starts off the show, he’s a lot more than meets the eye…
After the show, the cast gathers outside for a signing, so I recommend buying a poster before the show, so that right after you can just get in line and get signing!
Here’s a preview video below when they were in Singapore back in 2009.
Location: IBK Jump Theatre
The IBK Jump theatre is at Jongno, near the Samgilyo bridge of the Cheongyecheon. It’s about equidistant between Jongno and Jonggak stations (Subway Line 1) from the map. Look out for the large Jump banner on the side of the building and on the ground level! The theatre is in B2 and no photos nor food are allowed in the theatre.
Given its quite central location, you could coincide this with a visit to Insadong, or like me you can make this a stop to take a break from walking the Cheongyecheon.
There is another Jump Theatre in Busan.
Tickets: 50,000 won
2 tiers of tickets, 40,000 and 50,000 won.
I was walking along the Cheongyecheon deciding what to do for the day after a lot of walking when I passed by the theatre, and headed in to check if there were tickets for the 4pm show, which was due to start in about 20 minutes. It was pretty fully booked, but since I just wanted a single ticket, I really lucked out and ended up 3rd row from the front and smack in the middle… AWESOME, especially for seeing all the fancy kungfu moves up close! There are perks to travelling on your own…
Show time: 4pm
Shows at 4pm and 7pm from Tuesdays to Saturdays.
Sunday’s shows are at 5pm and 8pm, and there’ s only 1 show at 8pm on Mondays.
The show is 80 mins long, and it zooms by with the high-flying action.