There’s a palpable sense of care throughout Kagerou – Study of Translating Performance: Care is taken with the staging, Yoko Ito moving gentle around the space. Care is also taken with the story, spoken directly into Yoko’s ears that she translates into English in real time. And care is taken with the character, a woman remembering the loss of her husband in the earthquake at Fukushima. Nothing occurs abruptly.
Yoko’s first word is, “Um,” easing both subject and audience into this different kind of memory space. As the murmured Japanese sounds out from behind a projection screen, Yoko follows with the translation a beat later. She drags the trailing headphone cord along the floor, while video backdrops are projected on the screen.
There’s one particularly beautiful device at work throughout. Some lights are placed at a lower angle, projecting a silhouette of Yoko in such a way that her shadow stands stark on the video. She remembers where she was happy with her husband, but this is a memory seen through the lens of his loss, so for a lot of the images projected they are inhabited by this shape of a person, a figure bereft of light. The same low-angled shadow-play also occasionally puts the shape of an empty chair on the screen to reinforce the fact that someone is missing who shouldn’t be.
As the reminiscence moves from loss to some semblance of recovery, this flips and the projection now plays on Yoko’s body. It’s a lovely touch, played quiet, flares of colours bursting over her.
Admittedly, repeating the first line as the final line felt an inorganic way to end, forcing a shape on the piece that wasn’t required. This was an individual’s story that spoke to the greater nature of grief, and how – like the many projected images of the sea – time will inexorably wear it away.
Kagerou – Study of Translating Performance
Arts House – North Melbourne Town Hall, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Performance: Wednesday 15 February 2017 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 18 February 2017
Information and Bookings: www.artshouse.com.au
Image: Kagerou – Study of Translating Performance – photo by Bryony Jackson