Thursday, 10 June 2004

Mishima in the City: Duets of Desire, Liminal, Jun e10, 2004

Mishima in the City: Duets of Desire
Stage 1: Kantan and Sotoba  Komachi  by Yukio Mishima 
by Liminal Theatre
Yarraville, 10-20 June, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

With these productions of Kantan and Sotoba Komachi, emerging company, Liminal, embarks on a series of eight plays by Yukio Mishima. Contemporary Western artists embrace Mishima, a 20th century Japanese writer who committed Hari Kiri in 1971.

His plays draw on traditional Noh Theatre stories, but Mishima's own obsessions with death and desire are at their core. The central characters in both plays are unwilling to live fully. The language is spare and poetic and the plays are riddled with the angst of modern urban humanity.

Directors, Mary Sitarenos and Robert Draffin,  and the ensemble of seven performers, penetrate the inner world of Mishima's characters. Both plays have a languid quality and an underlying rhythmic pulsation of sensuality. The cavernous space of the run down old Yarraville Ballroom lends itself to dream-like images, shadows and ghostly appearances from its dim edges.

In Kantan, Jiro,  (Simon Aylott) a young man, visits Kiku (Alan Knoepfler) an old serving woman of his family. He is weary of life and demands of the submissive, frightened Kiku that he sleeps on her mysterious pillow. What follows is a fascinating dream world of rich imagery.

Sotoba Komachi features another young man, a Poet, (Luke Mullins) who meets Komachi, a ninety-nine year old former beauty who warns him that to call her beautiful would mean his death. The cast represents her as five female archetypes. (Jodie Harris, Paul Robertson, Ivanka Sokol, Amanda Falson, Knoepfler)

This is a seamless ensemble with shared performance vocabulary and fine physical and vocal skills. Knoepfler and Mullins are particularly compelling.

Luke Hails' stark and dramatic lighting design heightens the other worldliness of the plays. In Kantan, characters in dim light are backlit, creating shadows and silhouettes or heir faces are framed in a spotlight. Attendants who crawl around the floor with hand held lamps provide much of the close focus lighting in Sotoba Komachi. Darryl Cordell's set is striking and costumes by Jessie Willow Tucker are complex and beautiful.

Both plays are underscored by evocative live music by Jethro Woodward.

LOOK FOR: The five female archetypes in Sotoba Komachi.

By Kate Herbert

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