[20000027] Mizumachi


Torrens Parade Ground

8:00pm, Mon 6 Mar 2000

Score: 8

Short Review: Depth

Much lauded as one of the “must see” Festival events, the Japanese theatre company Ishinha’s first foray outside of Japan provides an amazing spectacle, both in the performances by the cast and in the unique set implementation.

Mizumachi is a “Jan Jan Opera”, referring to the home base of Ishinha. The program informs us that this is a self-imposed style of opera using the local intonations and dialects, which tend to use the dialogue more as music than as pure speech. This is just as well because, like most of the people attending this performance, my grip on Japanese isn’t that great. The performers, however, are able to create understanding out of that can’t-understand-the-language nothingness.

Mizumachi is primarily a song-and-movement piece. The music, though often overpowering, was magnificent, and was able to create the perfect atmosphere for any given scene (although I could have sworn that I heard excerpts of Mr Bungle’s “Merry Go Bye Bye” in there somewhere). The choreography for the dance scenes was also stunning, but when the piece strayed from dance into dialogue, it felt a little… lacking, both in impact and content.

Why, then, use “depth” as a one-word-summary? The answer is in the opening scene – there are four (count ’em) different “stages”, one behind the other, upon which different dances occured. You concentrate on the movement one one “stage” for a moment, then something on another catches your eye – and you begin wondering what you missed. Director Yukichi Matsumoto thus deserves extra special credit for the spectacle he has produced – a complex visual weave of many different layers which makes the performance pleasing to the eye.

But when all is said and done, there’s not much more to it than spectacle. There is a “story”, but it’s pretty much unimportant – just watch the wonderful performances on the clever stage (did I mention that the whole stage is mounted on a custom-designed lake, with the performers spending most of their time splashing around in the knee-deep water? Oh). The last three “chapters” are worth the price of admission alone.

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