Tuesday, 22 July 2003

Call me Komachi by Christie Nieman, July 22, 2003

Call Me Komachi by Christie Nieman  
fortyfivedownstairs, July 22 to August 3, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The global social phenomenon of women's beauty as a commodity is the subject of Call me Komachi.

Although the three women written by Christie Nieman and played by Kaori Hamamoto  are Japanese, we recognise similarities to our own culture. Kinu,  a sweet innocent schoolgirl, finds a new best friend, Reika , in a new city at her new school. Reika has already lost her innocence. She has chosen "Enjo Kosai",  a sponsored relationship with an older businessman.

This distressing form of sexual usury of young girls became common in the mid-90s in Japan. Young girls leave their details on a message line and men call and select one to be their protegee  - or victim.

Reika is cheeky and charming. Her daddy adores her and calls her Komachi, the name of a great beauty, a famous Japanese courtesan. Reika can indulge her obsession with Valentino  and Vivian Westwood   haute couture  with finance from her middle aged sponsor.

Reika's attitude alters when she realises she can no longer avoid sex with her sponsor at one of Japan's Love Hotels.  He pays for her time and company. That means sex at lunchtime.

The third character is a traditional Geisha.  "I was born a hundred years to late," she pines. She paints her face in the mask of the Geisha, performs her Tea Ceremony.  and reveals her sad, secret love.

This woman is an object, the manifestation of "iroke", man's sexual fascination with woman. Iroke focuses on the fragile impermanence of "beauty on the point of collapse."

Kinu is the child yet to become the object or victim of the male gaze that Reika and the Geisha are. Kaori Hamamoto, a Japanese woman who studied acting in Australia, plays all three characters consecutively. She is convincing, particularly as Reika, the naughty provocative fashion victim.

First time director, Miki Oikawa  allows Nieman's monologues to take the focus. The problem is that there is little stage action and sometimes too much talking. Unfortunately, when the Geisha paints her face we are unable to see her or hear her clearly.

Although Call me Komachi is theatrically limited, it is a fascinating glimpse into one part of the world of women in Japan.

By Kate Herbert

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