Untamed and trapped

Vanessa Rowell on Journey to Con-fusion #3

Journey to Con-fusion #3: Not Yet It's Difficult and Gekidan Kataisha

Journey to Con-fusion #3: Not Yet It's Difficult and Gekidan Kataisha

Intercultural theatre projects have explored diverse artistic and social practices since Peter Brook and Suzuki Tadashi in the 6os and 70s. Journey to Confusion #3 is a performance research project from Melbourne company Not Yet It’s Difficult and Tokyo’s Gekidan Kaitaisha. The cross cultural partnership began in 1999 with a season of Confusion #1 In Melbourne and subsequent work in Japan.

In Confusion #3 the companies create a unique time-in-space through intense physicality, prepared movement and various tensions. Neither company has banished their cultural viewpoint in the search to find cohesion. Instead of attempting to reconcile their contrasting body vocabularies they are, rather, observed. The juxtaposing of the performers’ histories and techniques strangely clarifies archetypes and symbols. Many of the solo moments within the piece characterise situations more associated with one culture than the other.

Through stillness, movement and voice the performers generate a palette of textures and tones. It is not necessary to grasp a single unifying thread, but rather embrace the confusion of humanity beside humanity. Confusion #3 begins as the silhouettes of 10 figures enter the space in a haze of mist. Their features are undefined, their identities ambiguous; they are also gagged. The long and slow silence forces me to observe the speech of the body and I become aware of a quivering energy present despite the calm. In Japanese theatre such as Butoh and Noh, performers move as result of the inner landscapes they create. It is this that I can feel penetrating the space between the performers and audience.

Confusion #3 is personal and political, subjective and global. There is very little by way of design, and only a few minor props—the power bestowed in the technique of the performing body activates the transformation of the space. Whilst the structure appears to be fixed, a lot of the actions, rhythm and pathways are dependent on improvisation. About a third of the way through the performance a number of the motifs have been articulated, including repetition, transformation and a suggestion of phantom pain. These return later in the performance.

By the end of the work there is an undeniable sense that the performers are trapped; hostages to the space, their bodies and their cultures. In an early sequence that builds to the point of audience discomfort, a performer flings himself against a wall. Another performer helps him up and then flings him straight back against the wall. This duet is repeated over and over with the whole company. It then implodes further as all the performers slap themselves against the stark white wall. I shudder as I watch the room fill with bodies trapped in repetitious assault on each other and themselves. Over this plays a country and western ballad with the lyric “In a world of my own” which doesn’t quite drown out the sound of flesh hitting walls.

With smeared lipstick, naked flesh, handcuffs, 10 dollar bills and dirt, agonised screams and spoken abstractions, Confusion #3 has all the elements of avant-garde theatre. It is rare that a performance has the intensity to leave you at the end of the show with quaking knees. It is not an easy to watch. This is no tame exploration of the body in performance and that is a good thing.

Journey to Confusion #3, Not Yet It’s Difficult & Gekidan Kaitaisha, Dancehouse, Melbourne, Next Wave, May 18-22.

RealTime-NextWave is part of the 2002 Next Wave Festival

RealTime issue #49 June-July 2002 pg. 4-5

© Vanessa Rowell; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 June 2002
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