Gliding through time and tragedy
By Myron My
The inaugural Melbourne festival Asia TOPA is the opportunity for Australia to celebrate the contemporary arts with its neighbouring Asian countries. Time’s Journey Through a Room comes to Melbourne from Japanese theatre company chelfitsch, and is a meditative and meaningful exploration of life, death, the in-between and the hereafter. Written and directed by Toshiki Okada, the performance is set a few days after the 2011 earthquake and Fukushima nuclear accident, but if you think the performance is actually going to be about those events, think again. Okada instead focuses on the relationships a young man has with his deceased wife and his new girlfriend.
The cast of three – Izumi Aoyagi, Mari Ando and Yo Yoshida – deliver deeply nuanced performances in roles that on the surface do not seem to demand much, but the subtleties of their characters and the delicate spoken nuances are where the complexities of hope and hopelessness are explored. There is an significant emotional detachment present by the performers throughout the show that is well-balanced and effectively manifested.
Okada’s direction is detailed and specific to the most minute of detail, including how Arisa holds onto a pleat in her skirt or the way Hanako’s feet stretch out when she is resting against the dining table. The contrast of Arisa’s unnatural movement and constricting sweater and skirt to Hanako’s ethereal-like movements and light, loose-fitting clothing further emphasises the idea of transformation and re-births in the face of tragedy in order to live a fulfilled life.
Tsuyoshi Hisakado‘s set design is simply ingenious, with the three actors spending virtually the entirety of the show on the far left hand side of the stage with a table and a few chairs as props. The rest of the space is adorned with fans, various lighting structures and other miscellany that build on the idea of timelessness, and along with Norimasa Ushikawa‘s sound direction and Tomomi Ohira‘s lighting design, create an environment of reflection and introspection while allowing us to follow the narrative on stage.
Time’s Journey Through a Room is an entrancing performance where you will both find yourself slipping into the moments that are being so vividly described on stage or allowing them to trigger memories of your own. Its exploration of hope is beautifully captured and gently insists we consider a different perspective when tragedy occurs.
Image by Bryony Jackson