Last night, Noorlinah Mohamed summed up the audience response to this show:
NM: I mean, they liked Real Reality, but they lovvvvvvved Lay/ered.
And I get it. Here’s why.
Real Reality comes from a genre of Japanese performing arts I’m gonna call manic-depressive pixie dream girl. It’s full of beautiful people with funky hairstyles and candy-coloured clothing, doing quirky gestures and high-energy, acrobatic dance sequences to eye/ear-popping computer-generated sound and visuals.
But at the same time, it’s also shot through with a huge undercurrent of angst. The opening image is a projection of a Harajuku girl dangling from a noose, her head popping up now and then to say in deadpan English:
I REALLY DON’T KNOW ANYTHING
I HAVE NO STORY
I HAVE NO WORDS
I HAVE NO COLOUR
I HAVE NO CULTURE
I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING
And then a whole holocaust of handsome boys and girls cascades down across the wall, also on nooses, each popping up his/her head to join in the chorus of self-abnegation.
And I’m thinking, golly, this is like Aida Makoto’s Harakiri Schoolgirls.
Meanwhile, our dancers Emi Oyama and Jun Morii are below, pushing furniture in that paranoid way one pushes furniture. And then they begin to frolic in the new wave of computer-generated landscapes (mountains, rainbows, swirling vortexes of rubbish, endlessly multiplying sheep). And they’re stripping their clothes off (they’re wearing many layers, so this never actually gets sexy) and having intimate pas de deux, and having desperately lonely solos, and then re-entering dressed as a tennis pro serving his racquette and a tutu girl balancing a balloon and then there was the bit where she climbed into the alcove of the hotel and started throwing books off the ledge like she’s a WAAPD member at the Pelangi Pride Centre Library…
And it’s fun. Like Versus, I’m not sure if it adds up to very much (it ended very abruptly), but I love the aesthetic. I’ve seen it in Nibroll and in Tokidoki Jido but that doesn’t mean I’m tired of it yet. Unfortunately, the floor of Tanjong Pagar Railway Station is not inclined, so the poor bastards behind me often couldn’t see the dancers. A few of them had to stand on their chairs to see anything. Others just sat down politely and watched the CGI projections.
Those of us near the front, on the other hand, got to see a sequence in the middle and at the end where a teeny little mouse comes out of nowhere onto the stage and snuffles around. Tanjong Pagar may have a pest problem.
Lay/ered, of course, was a big hit. And part of the reason was that we were on both sides of the train platform, sitting on the edge or on chairs, so we had plenty of room to spread out and see the action.
And part of the reason is that Yukio Suzuki and his co-performer Fuyuki Yamakawa were half-naked in skinny jeans and boots during this show, and they both have beautiful long lean ectomorphic bodies that get soaked with sweat, and Yamakawa also has this long hippie Sadako hair so he kinda looks like a Calvin Klein model…
But the main reason folks liked this was because it was this kinda awesome marriage of raw masculine energy and graceful choreography and technological cleverness that all combined in a very site-specific way.
It starts with Suzuki wandering up to a mound between the tracks, where an old electric guitar is lying. And he raises the guitar, and we think he’s gonna smash it, classic rock-style, but instead he kinda tangos with it, plucking its strings to yowl out its melodious discordance.
And Yamakawa’s slowly advancing in the darkness, answering every violent twang with a lupine howl that a lot of us honestly mistook for a neighbouring dog complaining about the noise.
Yamakawa advances to the mike and commences a Khoomei performance. (It’s Tuvan throat-singing. He’s formally trained in the art.) The men start playing other household objects on the tracks: a padded tabletop, a set of bowls and cups and spoons, a spade (who knew you could strum a spade like a ukekele?), a sprouting coconut which Yamakawa ultimately cleft with the spade and broke open, gnawing on the white flesh, hurtling some over to Suzuki (it landed in the dirt but he ate some anyway).
Mind you, all this is accomplished not through mere grit, but also cunning use of electronics to amplify sound – at one point, Yamakawa’s spade got disconnected and the sound went dead. It’s a marriage of analog and electric, flesh and circuit.
Oh, and the end when Yamakawa hooked up his own skull to the system, so that every thump on his body and chomp of his jaw created a BWOOM that reverberated around the district and woke up little babies and sleeping workers preparing for the early shift… SO NICE.
Mind you, it’s not like this is something we’ve never seen before. Lots of Singaporean artists do a kind of, say, organic sound art: Zai Kuning, Zulkifle Mahmod, Choy Ka Fai.
Choy Ka Fai
Prospectus for a Future Body
But these guys integrated it all really well and had such attitude and such grace. AND they looked like Calvin Klein models.
(Actually, Suzuki has an Afro, so he looks like a Calvin Klein model with a perm. Is that a thing?)
All in all, a very good kickoff for Dance Marathon: OPEN WITH A PUNK SPIRIT!, aka Another Festival Within a Festival Whose Name Is Too Long. Let’s see what the next two weeks will bring.