performance Tokyo Ghetto Arnolfini, Bristol
Monday 23 June 1997
But what had begun as very poor, poor theatre soon became ever more Artaudian, fulfilling the company's stated brief of incorporating many disparate styles. Taped music (from Ryuichi Sakamoto) accompanied slow, balletic movements from a female chorus, while two television monitors showed a montage of images including snatches of an anti-Japanese wartime propaganda film. A circular disc was lowered from the ceiling, on which the performers balanced precariously. There followed a kind of punk interlude, with a karaoke routine to Iggy Pop's "Raw Power", which was great.
The components of what turned out to be a fascinatng spectacle were then added one by one until all the following was going on: an actress munching cabbage leaves and spitting them out on the floor; the female chorus reappearing dressed in Forties underwear with their heads veiled in surgical dressings; a guinea pig wriggling in a transparent container.
As the climax of the show approached (after nearly an hour and a half's duration), an actress took the guinea pig from the jar and began to cuddle it. Ominously, another actress moved a lectern to the centre of the stage and began to slice up a page of A4 paper with a Stanley knife. Oh no, you thought, not the guinea pig! The ending, however, was all sweetness and light. An epilogue showed a hooded demonstrator mime the throwing of a stone, while a Chinese guard looked on. The guard then took the stone and threw it himself, before leaving the stage with the demonstrator, arm in arm. Tiananmen Square, right?
Asked for a post-match summary you'd have to say that it was intermittently superb, with images that were deeply strange and powerful, communicated through a chillingly disciplined technique. At other times, however, it seemed like nothing so much as a load of old toss, at least to the beery philistine that shares house-room with the voyeur inside us all. And whether it was worth anyone's sore back, or a psychologically scarred guinea pig, is debatable.
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Ben Affleck asked TV chiefs to hide slave-owning ancestry, new hacked Sony emails published by Wikileaks claim
- 3 Driving while dehydrated can be just as dangerous as drink driving, study suggests
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
- 5 One Direction: Louis Tomlinson launching his own record label, has already 'signed two acts'
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
One Direction: Louis Tomlinson launching his own record label, has already 'signed two acts'
Tidal CEO leaves Jay Z's music streaming service only a month after it launched
Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens: Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill admits he was suspicious of 'Star Trek guy' JJ Abrams
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate