Theatre in Wales

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Elegantly seductive

Five Days in March

chelfitsch (Tokyo, Japan) , Chapter arts Centre Cariff , August-20-08
Five Days in March by chelfitsch (Tokyo, Japan) The Chapter Art Centre is often referred to as one of the finest art centres in Europe. This is borne out first by its bravery to continue to present theatre, film and fine art etc. whilst the building is being given a much needed extensive refurbishment, and by bringing to Cardiff some of the finest examples of international experimental theatre. Five Days in March by chelfitsch artistic director, (the small ’c’ is his own choosing) film maker and acclaimed novelist Toshiki Okada is a first-class example of this process.

Japanese Theatre artists have been experimenting for centuries. The earliest existing scripts of Noh and Kyogen theatre date from 300 AD and reached their zenith by the fourteenth century. The rigid and formal Noh presentations were strongly influenced by Chinese tradition. Kabuki theatre was a reaction to all this formality with its more fiery use of song and dance reaching perfection by the eighteenth century. Both these, now highly formal styles of theatre continue in Japan today, as much museum pieces as theatre art.

The present generation of theatre makers seek to reflect Western realism but at the same time strive to produce work that remains essentially Japanese. Five Days in March gives us both a touch of the formal tradition as well as the realism of the modern day.

The ‘story’ concerns a young man who picks up a girl at a cinema, they go to a night club, follow a Protest March against the recently declared Iraq War then spend five days shagging the daylights out of each other in a Japanese Love-Hotel. At first all thought of protection is ignored. Then, after a slight twinge of concern, they use the two hotel standard supply condoms. Now having committed themselves to this erotic abandonment for the next four nights they check that if they leave the hotel they will be allowed to come back in; they return which three dozen, much cheaper condoms from a nearby pharmacy. Thankfully we learn that they only manage to get through two dozen before their idyll ends.

But this magic ninety minutes has little to do with hedonism and much more to do with the universal human condition but even that is too clichéd a phrase to reflect what is actually achieved. We are given a gentle, sometimes very humorous, captivating discourse using unconventional theatre techniques to highlight the poetry of the work. Initially there is an unnerving curiousness towards the strange movements the actors make. They lightly touch the characters they represent rather than playing them. At times we are addressed directly, in storyteller fashion, other times there is dialogue but again the engagement between the actors continues with a light brush and unreal body movements and gestures.

It is not dance but it is all very carefully choreographed and all the artists, whilst affecting an almost casual approach to their audience, are absolutely precise in the mastery of their performance art. There was no sense of lasciviousness but one was elegantly and satisfyingly seduced by these delightful, deceptively debonair, but very committed, twenty first century players.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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