Kodama Hatsuho

The theater collective ARICA and the butoh dancer Yamazaki Kota restaged their collaboration entitled Ne ANTA, which originally premiered at Morishita Studio, Tokyo in 2013. Based on Samuel Beckett’s TV drama Eh Joe (BBC, 1966), ARICA’s director Fujita Yasuki added some radical revisions to it for their stage production. One of them is that the woman appears in flesh on stage in ARICA’s version, while in Beckett’s script only her voice is heard. Another major change is that the male protagonist repeats six times his walk from the bed to the window, the fridge, the door and back to the bed (originally instructed by Beckett: from the bed to the window, the door, the cupboard, and back to the bed). Consequently, his psychological shifts are expressed through Yamazaki’s movements. Furthermore, while Beckett’s instructions call for moving the TV camera toward the actor nine times, by 10 cm each time, Fujita chooses to reverse the direction and moves the wall in the back so that Yamazaki, pushed by the wall, moves towards the audience instead.
The middle-aged man (Yamazaki Kota) is tortured by the various voices he hears in his head. The routine walk that he takes in the room is to check if there is anybody in the room or anybody coming in. The man has killed in his mind all the speakers of the voices he heard in the past one by one. The voice he hears now (Ando Tomoko), like a haunting spirit, relentlessly accuses him, intermittently between her heavy breathings, for the love he had failed to give and for the suicide of the woman in the lavender robe. Toward the end, as Ando shows up in flesh in front of him, the room shifts from the Beckettian space of desertion and isolation to a festive place where the man plays with the dead spirit.
In the beginning, Yamazaki sits on the bed completely still, but it is clearly felt that inside his body he is constantly escaping from any fixed form. There is no focus in his consciousness, but he is not sunk in subconsciousness. It is like his body were a black hole, sucking up the entire space of the room. In addition, various bodies take over Yamazaki’s body: a disabled body; a paralyzed body; an old, aging body. I thought I saw in there Yamazaki’s as-of-now answer to what butoh is. Compared to the premier two years ago, his movements now look more sophisticated, which also indicates the direction in which he is heading. “Dance without dancing”, inspired by the forms of the traditional Japanese dance; his routine walks; and the dance of the face…; all those elements feel more smooth and cool. The crazy dance in front of the door, too, which used to be heavy with low-gravity postures and Francis Bacon-ish twists and deformations, now has tap dance-like casual ups and downs, reminding me of Yamazaki’s recent inclination toward American pop music.
Since Yamazaki lives in New York there are few chances to see his dance here. This show was a precious opportunity to see Yamazaki’s present state, inspired by Beckett’s text.