In ReposeIn Repose challenges the taboos of death, historical sore spots and the boundaries of artistic expression to bring together into a multimedia show performance-based research, various art forms and kuyo - a Japanese ceremony honouring diseased relatives. The project took the artists to Japanese cemeteries in Townsville, Broom, Thursday Island, Port Hedland and Roebourne, and into hitherto unreached creative peaks, which changed forever the communities they visited and, as it proves, the audiences they encountered.

It is rare to be able to witness past and present performance at once, but In Repose does it with a storyline delivered by koto music, narration, dance, photography and video footage and audio from the field trips. The unusual structure of the show is cohesive, logical and beautifully proportioned. It engages the audience in contemplation about life and death, and into a direct experience of identity catharsis.

Like presiding priests, Mayu Kanamori (photographer and narrator), Satsuki Odamura (koto), Wakako Asano (dance), Vic McEwan (narrator) and Keith Tucker (lighting) weave Japanese kuyo into a transcendental experience, which illuminates historical events and heals past grievances.

The binding substance of the narrative is the koto music and virtuosic playing of Satsuki Odamura. She was able to draw out the heart of this large plucked Japanese harp with 13 strings; the number 13 symbolising death and new beginnings. Her compositions rest in Shirabemono, improvisation and Western counterpoint traditions.

The pieces are perfectly crafted as separate essays and as characteristic blocks within the larger structure. Especially notable were the instrumental accompaniment to the suicide dance, and the melodramas of Japanese text and koto music that provided invisible transitions from narration to dance. The melodrama technique has been widely used in Western stage genres and cinema with references to emotional, supernatural and death, and is applied to perfection in this work albeit with koto accompaniment.

Wakako Asano’s movement conveyed the solemn reverence of the memorialisation ceremony and the inner flight of discovery into past and future, culminating in present wisdom.

Mayu Kanamori’s atmospheric photographs, exhibited in the foyer gallery and featuring on stage, were the anchor of the story.

Mayu Kanamori and Vic McEwan, the two narrators representing Japan and Australia respectively, reflected mirror-like on the motto ‘We will all become part of this landscape’. They bridged memories, imaginations and realities in the almost full and magically lit Space Theatre.

The synthesis between the art forms manifested unmistakably when the shadow of Wakako, danced projected on one of the tomb stone banners, accompanied by koto melodies and contemplative words. In Repose is beneficial for both those who were affected by this part of Australian history and for the younger generations who are oblivious of it. This powerful performance demonstrates the supremacy of art in communicating subjective knowledge and its capacity to reach into the very core of human subsistence.

Adelaide Festival Centre's OzAsia Festival
In Repose

Venue: Space Theatre
Dates: 1 - 2 Oct, 2010
Time: 7.30pm
Duration: 1 hr 15 mins
Tickets: Adult $25, Conc $20

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