I believe that in theatre, just as in life, you cannot force other people to feel the things you want them to feel. You can’t impose moods, points of view or feelings. Certainly, in every artistic creation there is an attempt to create debate inside the audience’s heads, and an attempt to make them think about the position they have regarding a specific subject. However, being moralist and tyrannical should never be an option in theatre.
I don’t mean this show presents tyrannical ideas or compels you into believing in facts that you don’t want, but it does force you to participate and there is no escaping that.
When you arrive to the Pit Theatre at the Barbican, along with your ticket you receive a poncho and ear plugs. Therefore, you can predict you are going to get wet and there will be some really loud sounds. Once you get inside the room, there is a man who presents himself as the official translator of this show’s tour. He explains you that this is going to be a very crazy, funny evening. He talks about how the show has been accepted in other countries and how it is a never-ending process, so the director will be present and in the end she will make corrections so they can improve for the next performance.
All the seats, walls, floor are covered in plastic. The Barbican has tried to create a waterproof space to receive this performance, included in the LIFT Festival programme. All over the room there are projections of typical Japanese manga and cartoons. Also, some extra warnings about the water and sound are being projected onto the improvised, waterproof screens. On stage there are four microphones and some coloured objects that I couldn’t really identify.
Minutes before the actual show starts, the director Toco Nikaido appears on stage after the translator has stimulated the audience to scream for her, as if we were in a children’s panto and screaming for the princess or the prince to appear. Nikaido then shows up wearing a crown and screams something into one of the microphones – I guess about the show. Her words are translated but due to the extremely loud music that was already being played, and due to the ear-plugs, I couldn’t really get anything she said.
What happens in the following 40 minutes is, to say the least, confusing. 25 Japanese young performers sing really loudly, dance frenetically and jump all over The Pit. They walk through the seats, they touch the audience, they shake your hand, ask you to smile and to clap your hands to the rhythm. Meanwhile they start throwing buckets of cold water and some doughy unidentified white substance at you. Then they throw clothes and table tennis balls at you. Lots of confetti falls from the ceiling. Your eyes don’t know where to look at.
They sing some commercial songs, some from musicals and others from well-known American pop singers. I could understand that the lyrics had been adapted, but once again, because of the ear plugs and the whole overwhelming experience I was unable to focus my attention on what was being sung. Some posters were held saying “we are all alive” or “normal theatre sucks”.
I can comprehend the kind of concept they are trying to create. They throw their own party and try to invite the audience to take part in it. However, there’s much more to being alive than screaming and jumping like fools. Human beings need silence and pause, and to take a breath every now and then. Thus, trying to label the kind of theatre that is not like yours as “normal theatre” is in itself an action totally full of prejudice. The same prejudice that these people are trying to run away from, by considering themselves avant-garde.
I can think about a million messages that this show would be trying to tell me, and yet I can’t reach any clear conclusion. I have no idea what this show is about. It is certainly a different, at times funny, at times panicking idea. Still, I have to say again that audiences should never be forced to feel happy or celebrate or clapping their hands or singing along with the performers if they don’t feel like it. And that is okay – it doesn’t mean they are not enjoying the show, but they are just trying to keep some privacy and to catch their breath after such an exhausting evening.
Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker is playing at the Barbican Centre as part of LIFT Festival until 2 July. For more information and tickets, see the LIFT Festival website.