Monday, January 12, 2004

Have just been to possibly my one and only Sydney Festival performance event. This was called Hashirigaki. Conception, music and direction is by German Heiner Goebells and it was inspired by Stein's The Making of Americans. Apparently hashirigaki is Japanese for: 1. n. flowing text; 2. adj. forward motion; 3. vb. rushing.

Well, 'we were pleased' apart from the fact that our seats had shocking sight lines so we had to stand for most of the performance. (We were up the back and no-one was behind us.) This is in, supposedly, one of Sydney's newest state of the art theatres, the new Parade Theatre at NIDA. I sometimes wonder if Australians have any understanding of how to produce theatre but that's another discussion. NIDA, by the way, is the National Institute of Drama and has produced some well-known actors, at least to Australians. Maybe you've heard of Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Mel Gibson, Barry Otto, the vastly overlooked Kerry Walker, but, then, maybe not.

Back to Hashirigaki. It was performance and music theatre which used parts of Stein's text, recited by three women actors, plus some of the best lighting design I've seen for a while and a variety of music, including Japanese music, but very specifically the music from Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds. No Beach Boy vocals are used but the three women do sing some of the songs in a cracked, funny and moving way. (They are no singers.)

The piece is as abstract as Stein can be or certain movement pieces can be but it was funny, sad and strange. The three actors also played a variety of Japanese, percussion and early electronic instruments. The women were Charlotte Engelkes from Sweden, Marie Goyette from Canada and Yumiko Tanaka from Japan. Tanaka was the naughty one and I wished I understood Japanese as a number of the audience laughed during her particular solo moments. The texts also were recited in such a way as to bring out the lesbian subtext.

I loved it so if it comes to a town near you somewhere in the world go and see it.

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