Fast approaching my graduation showcase at East 15 Acting School, I should be in this strange kind of limbo, aimlessly wondering around trying to figure out where I am going to and what I am going to do with my future career and life. Instead I find myself onstage, wondering through limbo trying to understand and awaken myself to both past and future as the character Jiro, in The Ghosts of Kantan, directed by Franko Figueiredo. The spookily absurd play blends 3 modern Noh plays, by Yukio Mishima, Dojoji, The Pillow of Kantan & The Lady Aoi. Using many influences from traditional Japanese theatre such as Noh and Kabuki, as well as modern Butho dance & Suzuki training, Franko Figueiredo has directed the 23 strong cast, from BA World Performance, in a Japanese, western theatre blend that proves to be a unique spectacle.
Prior to my training at East 15 on the BA World Performance, I would have quite arrogantly dismissed this concept of blending world and western theatre, and the thought of performing in a piece that does this would have seemed as far away as Japan itself. However, now I find that I wouldn’t want to do anything but this. Like most I was naively unaware of such theatre styles as Balinese Dance Drama, Indian Bharatanatyam, Indonesian Shadow Puppetry and a huge variety of different masked performance. World Performance has not only opened my eyes to them but let me experiment in them with some of the world’s most skilled and experienced professionals in these disciplines. People may question what importance these world styles have in a western theatre world context, but if you look back to those few practitioners that most western actors have learnt their trade from, you’ll find that they have been influenced by a variety of different world genres and have applied many of these techniques in their western work. Why we have chosen to ignore this application for centuries and rename it “western acting” baffles me. This is what World Performance does so effortlessly, equipping each student with multiple western disciplines such as acting, directing, scriptwriting, research, devising and production skills and encourages us to apply the many different techniques and traditions that we have gained from our world theatre studies to these western theatrical aspects.
The theatre world is constantly changing and recently, the creation of a company’s own work has become the popular and most sufficient form of theatre making. However, apart from the odd alternative theatre festival, you tend to get the same old shows, sometimes with the appearance of a puppet or contemporary dance to add something a bit new. Don’t get me wrong, I love these shows, but there is something special about blending a simple narrative, Japanese Butho, Noh and Kabuki with some very western theatrical elements. These forms have been around for hundreds of years but seem excitingly new in the strict theatre world.
The wonderful thing about The Ghosts of Kantan is that Franko has managed to put into practice what I have been whittling on about. Blending three modern Japanese Noh plays into one, using live traditional Japanese music to brilliantly create the ghostly atmosphere throughout, Butoh to visually display the terrifying car accident that begins the play, Noh characterisations and movements to display the supernatural transformation from beauty to possessed, Japanese Hannya and a Suzuki style of stomps and steps to help develop character and movement throughout the piece. Intelligently he doesn’t alienate his very western audience, he manages to intertwine this very Japanese production with a very western absurdity.
In the course I also met Lottie Gibson, Salvatore Scarpa and Char Brookes and together we will be launching an international theatre festival in the small Sardinian town of Porto Torres, which will implement the idealogy of World Performance: making theatre once again a universal art form understood by anyone anywhere in the world.
Future to that, Salvatore and I have begun to create work with our theatre company Clockwork Theatre, which produces original intercultural performances that we can tour globally.
But currently I am basking in the opportunity I have been given to ghostly wonder the stage on the hunt for enlightenment, first at East 15 Southend and then at RADA studios on Tuesday 3rd March in London. Hopefully, after I’ve found my way through the twisted past and future of Jiro and encountered hundreds of ghosts, I’ll see you on the other side.. fellow thespians.
The Ghosts of Kantan Directed by Franko Figueiredo will be performed at:
62-64 Gower Street
On March 3rd at 7:00pm
If you would like tickets then please contact Clifftown Theatre on: 01702 328325