April 2016


Workshop with young actors in Seoul

April 2014


"The Teenager Project"


Exploratory Workshops in Seoul and Birmingham

Summer 2014


Extended workshop in Seoul - Jiyoung and William

November 2018


Orange Polar Bear


Performances in Birmingham

December 2014


First Draft of the play

[Working Title 'Jetlag']



Second and third drafts


Distance working and script development




May 2018


Orange Polar Bear


Rehearsals in Seoul

July 2016


"Orange Polar Bear"


Sharing of Work in Progress, ASSITEJ International Meeting

October 2018


Orange Polar Bear


Performances in Seoul



"Orange Polar Bear"


Reworking at distance again



Looking for Yoghurt

May 2018


Orange Polar Bear


Final script meetings

June 2014 The Hanyong Young Company

Blue Orange Theatre Birmingham

August 2016 


"Orange Polar Bear"


NTCK, Seoul


All-Korean version





The Korean National University of the Arts



The Bridge


The Road to Orange Polar Bear - a Timeline

The process that led to Orange Polar Bear was a long one, beginning with meetings in 2014, but before it began there were a series of projects coordinated by Peter Wynne-Willson and Hanyong Theatre Company, combining the work of theatre-makers in South Korea and Birmingham.  This timeline charts the development of the work through those crucial earlier projects, and then through the many complex stages of the play's development.  The timeline is illustrated by images and videos - which can be identified by the arrow in the top right corner of the image - click on the images to watch the videos, which can be expanded to full screen.

Orange Polar Bear Project starts

The earlier processes that led to Orange Polar Bear

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The origins of Orange Polar Bear go back to the period Peter Wynne-Willson spent teaching at the Korean National University of the Arts, establishing a module on Theatre-in-Education as part of the new Masters in Theatre for Young Audiences.  The work with postgraduate students at this elite school established many of the patterns of work that have fed into the artistic collaborations that started in 2005.

The second Hanyong Project, Looking for Yoghurt was in English, Korean and Japanese, and performed in UK, Korea, Japan.  The play was created through improvisation and a series of workshops with young children in all three countries.  Set on a building site, the three children are looking for a lost cat called Yoghurt.  The language convention here broadly ignores the fact they speak different languages [although they initially struggle to communicate] and works on repetition of words, use of common references, and physical languages to make translation unneccessary.  This was aimed at family audiences, including many too young to read surtitling.  In this section, the three are just meeting and finding ways of communicating. Yudai Kano, Park Young Ju and Daniel Naddafy are the actors.  The play was devised by them with the writers, Peter Wynne-Willson, Toyoko Nishida and Kim Mijeong.

In Birmingham, the initial stage is a concentrated two-day workshop with young people from three secondary schools in the city.  Messages from the Korean group are played and the group does drama workshops with both of the writers and director, and compiles thoughts and monologues while Sun Duck and Evan are able to start formulating story ideas.  They send messages back to Seoul, and tell stories.  Drama workers Dan Tyler and Lorna Laidlaw join this stage of the project.

As part of the workshop, which focuses on 'what it feels like being 15', and explores similarities and differences with the Korean young people, the Birmingham group send these messages back to Seoul.

The third project , Nori, was a smaller-scale interactive piece, built with The Play House in Birmingham.  With one British performer [Juliet Fry] and one Korean [Lee So Sun] it told the story of a strange undersea creature that had been seen off the shores of Bonny Cove, and drew its young audience into building a bridge between her and  the old woman who lived on the beach.  In this extract, the children are faced with the creature, Nori, whom they have been led to believe is dangerous.  

The process that led to Orange Polar Bear starts in 2014 and is labelled simply, 'The Teenager Project'.  A much larger collaboration, it sets out specifically to explore the lives of teenagers in Seoul and Birmingham as the basis of a bilingual project.  The first stages are drama workshops in both countries.  In Korea, a group is recruited and meets weekly over a long period, and the international collaboration begin in earnest with the first visit of UK artists [Wynne-Willson and writer Evan Placey] to join the Korean team in the workshop for a week, in April 2014.


This video is a compilation created by the Teenage Drama Research Centre in Seoul documenting these early stages of the process.

10 performances between the 10th and 22nd October 2018 at the Baek Sung Hee Jang Min Ho Theatre in Seoul were all sold out.  Most of the audience were teenagers.  There was a symposium after one performance and a number of focus group meetings with the teenage advisors who had been involved with the project from the outset.  

Working apart, the writers go through a number of drafts, before coming together in London, and spending a week making the first combined English/Korean draft of the play.   Initially called Jetlag the play goes through a range of titles - Chaos, Out of the Chaos and Nobody, before arriving at Orange Polar Bear

In 2005 Wynne-Willson set up the first of the Anglo-Korean collaborative projects, The Bridge.  Set during the Korean War, it tells the story of a British soldier who is injured and befriends some Korean children.  Aimed at school audiences, and performed without surtitles, it toured in the UK, Korea, Japan and Australia. In this extract, Paul Edwards plays the soldier, with Kim Soree, Won Sae Eun and Kim Deok Eun as the children. Written by Peter Wynne-Willson and Ko Sun Duck.  Directed by PWW and Nam In U

Sun Duck and Evan work separately after the summer workshop with occasional links through the internet, and produce drafts of the two stories, in effect, for Jiyoung and William, and begin the process of discussing how it will fit together.  At this point the first application to produce the play is rejected by the Arts Council, who felt that a major producing partner was needed in the UK.

In July and August, three of the Birmingham group of teenagers fly to Seoul, join with the Koreans and work with a UK-Korean team to devise a piece based on the ideas from the workshops combined.  The process is led by drama educators and actors from both countries, with the two writers watching, and working on their script.  The two central characters, Jiyoung and William are created.  The workshop ends in a sharing of the improvised piece on the National Theatre stage.  This video compiled by NTCK Research Centre.

With a new application for funding being created, the project develops through another workshop in Korea, with Korean actors working with Peter Wynne-Willson and Ko Sun Duck, exploring further story and character options.  The plan is now to do a Korean version of the play in the summer, while a new partner is found and funding is raised for the full version.  NTCK puts a substantial amount of support into developing this version fully.

The Birmingham Repertory Theatre performances were in The Door from November 1st -10th 2018, attendance was 86%.  31% of audience were first-time attenders.  In addition the company did workshops in a range of schools throughout the run, as well as with young artists groups, and were supported by BCU students who worked with a total of 380 school students.  121 people attended a one-day symposium during the run held in association with Creative Multi-Lingualism and the University of Oxford.

The project draws together UK and Korean actors in Birmingham for a week of development work on the project, and a 'work-in-progress' version [still under the title Nobody] is presented to an invited audience of delegates at the ASSITEJ [Association Internationale du Theatre de l'Enfance et la Jeunesse] World meeting ['On The Edge'] in Birmingham.  A half hour extract is presented for discussion.  Young people are in the audience alongside the delegates, who are a range of artists and practitioners from around the world.  [nb This short unfinished 'trailer' contains untranslated Korean.  You can watch the whole extract from the link below.] 

The first version of the play presented in public is with an all-Korean cast, due to a funding shortfall.  Directed jointly by Peter Wynne-Willson, with the Artistic Designer Yeo Shin Dong, the work-in-progress Korean version is an opportunity to create staging and production concepts, and to attract a co-producer for the final version.  Roxana Silbert, Artistic Director of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre comes to Korea and agrees to co-produce the play.  Meanwhile the work-in-progress version is given ten performances to full houses of teenagers, and a symposium is held to discuss the project and develop it further. Two BCU undergraduates are in Seoul to document the process. 

As the complex administrative plan is taking shape, the writers are having to work at distance again, taking the experience of the 2016 versions into a final draft.  Here Tessa Walker, who was added to the team as Dramaturg when the Rep became a partner, is facilitating a Skype session between Evan in London and Sun Duck in Korea, with the aid of translator Christine Yu, in the coffee bar at the Young Vic Theatre.

With the production funded, and casting underway, the final script meeting happens in Seoul, with an agreement on the approach to surtitles finally arrived at.  Evan Placey and Peter Wynne-Willson are in Seoul for this meeting, and the discussion is largely around the relationship between the projections, which are a key to the new design, and the projected surtitles.  This very short video extract is included just to give a sense of the numbers and atmosphere involved in these discussions and meetings.

The play is cast, and the UK cast have flown to Seoul for the final rehearsal stage.  Once rehearsals are underway, the project is in a new phase.  Building trust between the performers [four of whom are involved in the project for the first time] and bringing together a very large support team are paramount.  Two student bloggers from BCU join the team  to relay this process back to Birmingham and the original young people from Seoul in 2014 watch rehearsals and feed in responses.  The complex projections are still providing the main area of anxiety, and the scale of the overall operation is much larger than previous projects in this series of collaborations.