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S & H Alternative Music Review

Heiner Goebbels: Hashirigaki Barbican Theatre, 23rd November 2002 (JM)


Conception and direction Heiner Goebbels
Sets and lighting Klaus Grunberg
Costumes Florence von Gerkan
Sound design Willi Bopp
First staged by Theatre Vidy Lausanne

…doing one thing or another, sometimes you do another thing and then the one again, then you do something and then another…

An actress speaks a monologue in this way for minutes, as if she had an intriguing story to tell. In the meantime, the mind of the viewer drifts off and attention shifts to the extraordinarily beautiful colours of the lighting design.

The stage design– a four metre high half circle construction, which is lit from front and back – changes purely through different shades of light and abstract graphical patterns. Within this space, or in front of it, three female actors/singers handle a few stylised props, or their instruments: a Japanese Koto, a Theremin (one of the first electronic instruments played by moving one’s hands between two antennae) and a mini pipe organ. The props sometimes develop a life of their own. It all seems as if Goebbels has been inspired by the German director and painter Achim Freyer.

Apart from little islands of story telling, which float around without any context, or simply stop, Hashirigaki has no overall narrative shape. It has a Japanese theme (as the title suggests), with a real Japanese female actor/singer/musician playing traditional Japanese music on the Koto and percussive instruments and singing traditional Japanese songs. The text fragments are drawn from Gertrude Stein (her famous statement: a rose is a rose is a rose.) and Tony Asher, who wrote for the Beach Boys. (Don’t talk to me, put your head on my shoulder). Arrangements of songs by the Beach Boy Brian Wilson (live singing with playback accompaniment) are in stark contrast to the ancient Japanese music. Actually, there is no contrast - they just follow each other. These songs are amusing, absurd in this context. Traditional Japanese music/Beach Boys – that’s it. Is there meaning? Is a synthesis possible? …there is one thing and then there is another thing, and after the other thing, there is the one thing again, and then there is the other…

The show runs for 90 minutes - with no break- like a film (David Lynch’s Mullholland Drive has a similar surreal quality). The actor/musicians Charlotte Engelkes, Marie Goyette and Yumiko Tanaka performed with lightness and irony. Klaus Grünberg’s stunning lighting design shows what is possible with light.

Jean Martin


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