Thursday, December 29, 2005

Cutting edge; thin ice.

With the best of weather illuminating Japan I have been out and about with a chum who teaches in Hong Kong. He is in rapture to the style, colour and charm of pedestrians. We have, in one day conquered: Akihabara electronics, Jinbocho books, Daiba sunsets and Minato-Mirai horizons. We even went into Brooks Brothers. It is an excellent shop. And there I was always dismissing it because of the hideous shop front in Motomachi. Those flags! But within, some rather snazzy pants called Hudson. I even ascended the Landmark Tower and shot 12 views of Mt Fuji. And Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Later we speed- walked to combat the cold. We headed for the Red Brick Buildings and the temporary ice rink. Through the blue light we discovered a student. A 12th grade student. Down on the ice. And he a skillful footballer. "There are more here," he said. And indeed there were. "It's my birthday," said another as she ricocheted into the encircling fence beyween ice and pavement. What did I make of all this? Well, later I considered: What play would benefit from being staged on ice? I could not think of one. It would be too Disney, too Ice Follies, too difficult. And yet images of Chekhov's women skating to Moscow passed in front of me. The next day I was back at Landmark searching for a Barry Eisler novel; he writes about John Rain a Japanese-American assassin. I found 'Rain Storm' and will give it a try. Then I stumbled upon a lovely book. 'A Guide to the Japanese Stage' subtitled, 'From Traditional to Cutting Edge'. Now there's a claim. It looked less fuddy-duddy than anything seen before on the subject. And indeed it is. It mentions Butoh and Dairakudakan. It mentions Super Kabuki. It mentions Yoji Sakate who I have met and who invited me to give a workshop at his Rinko-Gun Theatre. Cutting edge indeed. The index is clear, the writing is straightforward and it is in chunks that welcome reading. I learnt several things within five minutes. For example, Sankai Juku Butoh has "eliminated grotesque strangeness and over-emotional physical expression". Now I must see them to know if this is true. The book even has seating plans of major theatres. And for the price of Y2200 I think it is a bargain. It has something for every IBTA student and teacher. There are still copies in Yurindo. Skate on over, why don't you?

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