Tokyo Fugue, tarinainanika: train of thoughts and movements

Photo Credit: A. Clark
We’ve all been there: rushing down the stairs, elbowing the crowd to get off at the right station, dozing as soon as a seat is available - or even while standing. Big cities cannot escape the problem of modern overflowing of people in the travelling network, neither London, nor Tokyo can.

Through the “art of the thinking body” - as Corporal Mime can be described -, tarinainanika adds to the Camden Fringe programme a performance made of feelings, thoughts, and dreams. Tokyo Fugue, currently at The Cockpit theatre - likely to tour soon around the country and beyond -, aims to deliver an experience with the use of multimedia material and magnetic body movements. It is not a matter of dance or coordinated actions, rather a language that finds its new way through the human figure.

As the lights go down, the background screen and a spotlight turns on. An actor positions himself on the stage, first sitting on one of the three empty white chairs. Then, as confused sounds get mixed with classic music, free movements become jerky. Soon he is joined by two members.

The three chairs and a couple of little black notebooks are all the props and scenography elements used.

Photo Credit: A. Clark
If on one side the lack of plot gives free rein to spontaneous associations, on the other it may leave the audience quite disoriented, especially when not used at all to mime. The packed one hour show is indeed a continuous flow of physical expressions that sway between the dreamlike realm and true tangible reality. The only link connecting them all are the trains, expected, signalled, arriving, and departing.

Dialogues overheard, encounters never happened, phone calls breaking up, rush hour traffic on the escalator: anything that can be thought in the environment of stations is pulled together here, seen through the lens of half-sleeping souls. Thus, all the facts and reactions are slowed down and perceived ampler, with questions keeping on tapping and echoing. The final result is quite hazy, if added to the absence of a narration.

There are very few sequences conveying the cliché hustle and bustle, especially when the three actors cross and line up in rapid turns. The performance is more about all the untold, the undone, and the imagined happening inside the minds and in the few disordered interactions with the other people on the train.

Image: A. Clark
On the backdrop, stylised images of platforms, trains passing by, and rails are projected, generally with the alienating effect given by people’s backs and backwards motions.

The music intertwines mostly with indistinct sounds of the tracks, producing a sort of calming effect in this normally frenzy climate.

It is difficult to imagine how long it must have been taken to Kentaro Suyama, Tania Coke, and Toshihiko Nishimura (the three performers) to become such a perfect organism on the move. Their gestures, their calculated interlocking, and paced steps are fascinating, and looking like the most natural acts. They are precise though smooth and their coordination is incredible.

There are cues, like the advertisements, that prompt the theatregoers to identify with the scenes. They help to make more familiar the otherwise totally unusual events happening, make it easier for the audience to empathise and almost remember with the performers “I have been here before.” We may not be fully conscious, present with all our senses on the way and in the middle of our commutes, but Tokyo Fugue physically renders those chaotic inner impressions and feelings for us.

Dates: 23-26th August 2018
Venue: The Cockpit

Thanks to Theatre Bloggers for the invite.