Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Dream Regime

Gekidan Kaitaisha , Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff , January-30-04
Dream Regime by Gekidan Kaitaisha It was, it would seem at first, an unfortunate coincidence that the Japanese company Gekidan Kaitaisha should present the first two parts of their performance - first on Chapter's forecourt and then in the back garden - just as the predicted cold snap looked like it was kicking in.

We (and the performers at times) shivered as we stood or sat on walls as frightened-looking people from different nations hesitantly edged closer together, suspicious of each other until they trooped through to what became a contrasting scene of a very cosy al fresco dinner party oblivious of the distractions of some persecuted individuals.

Part three, though, was warmer: we sat in Chapter's theatre and heard about atrocities.

That chilling opening to the Dream Machine triptych, however, was maybe not such a chance.

The theme of the evening was, after all, about oppression and conflict in an increasingly multi-cultural world of globalisation and migration.

Little comfort there as the icy winds of prejudice and control blow across the world.

Not that this was a conventional evening of agitprop theatre. The Japanese company have been at Chapter for three weeks, working with artists, activists, performers, academics and others in a process that has been about debate as much as theatre-making.

Dream Machine is described as a work-in-progress and was a fascinating experience for those of us not part of the residency workshops.

We had, then, a collection of images, some political, some personal, some theatrical. The Japanese troupe was enlarged to include international activists and local performers. We had powerful dance, autobiographical statements, an illustrated lecture - and people performing, but also people just being.

One moment, then, we had abstract theatrical scenes with a dancer wearing handcuffs, a man taking notes, people performing martial arts movements in energising, empowering, meditation and evasion, and then we had Jacqueline Siapno, with her baby boy grabbing her microphone, showing us film of Indonesia's cruel oppression in East Timor - the natural intimacy of the mother-child relationship a contrast to the horrors of what we saw on the screen as people scrabbled in mass graves for the bones of their murdered loved ones.

It was an extraordinary evening, a performance with no obvious narrative or structure, but a remarkable expression of theatre as a medium of exploration, expression, provocation, where there was no easy storyline or resolution.

I guess for the participants the nature of the experience was even more intense and rewarding.

It wasn't easy, it wasn't clear and it wasn't, obviously "finished," but felt as an audience as if we were stepping into a rushing stream with very few rocks to stand on.

Gekidan Kaitaisha (which means Theatre of Deconstruction) have been at Chapter before and were impressive then, when they interrogated their own culture.

Here they are concerned with not just Asia but with global concerns. As part of Chapter's Theatrum Europa 04 season they provided more essential and exciting evidence in our urgent debates on the new world of the 21st century.

Reviewed by: David Adams

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