Thursday, February 15, 2007

Night out at the theatre------ The Lady Aoi by Mishima.

(Picture courtesy of The Sunday Times)

Yesterday evening, L and I enjoyed an exquisite dinner at an Indian restaurant, MM. The lamb dishes were delectable, and the pistachio ice-cream we finished off with was worth being late to the theatre for. We arrived just after 8pm to be told it had already started. Luckily, the show did not actually commence until 30 seconds after we were ushered to our seats.

Rather than crackling with passion as promised, The Lady Aoi fizzled with lacklustre dramatic tension. Playwright Mishima, who I adore for his fusion of the macabre with sensuality, endeavoured to explore the psychological and philosophical domain of dreams. Dialogue was sparse; the philosophical pretensions of the play superficially spread. The actors’ attempts to compensate with overblown performances did not improve the entertainment value. Aoi, hospitalized on her death-bed, is a live and tortured presence played by the convulsive embodiment of Claudia Alessi. Her pervasive pain links the past and present in the realms of memory. Rivaling the audience in her ability to sit silently through the hour-long performance, I sympathised with her plight. Somebody give the poor girl a blanket before she catches pneumonia.

Some small gripes deserve mention- unfortunately the acquisitionist is oh-so cantankerous for one so young. The voices of some of the actors were nauseatingly articulated, either as they tried to project or eschew their Australian accents. However, the costuming was meticulously crafted. Hikaru’s ornamental and oriental-style garb was eye-catching. The dark hooded figure of Madame Rokujo entering the hospital to visit Hikaru, her past lover, was also disarming. The triangular stage design provided a physical map of the love conflict that was to unfold. Special effects did give a scintillating edge to the drama at times.

The chemistry between Hikaru and Madame Rokujo was lacking. The play culminated in a foofaraw of action. Failing to command my attention earlier, all the fuss seemed to demand it. Unfortunately, the phone call revelation at the end which aims to shatter the illusory and real boundaries was about as hackneyed as the flashback boating-days scene. However, the final image of efficiency that the nurse presented was striking as she slowly scrubbed the bloodied stage clean.

Self left feeling hollow, the audience also did not appear to be enamoured with The Lady Aoi. A few snickers escaped at the ostentatiously ‘erotic’ moments in the play, and several old dears in the audience covered their ears as the loud music threatened to damage the tympanic membrane. Although not a memorable performance, I’m glad I went because I would’ve been disappointed not to have seen a Mishima offering. It was a visual feast with a nutrionally- deficient main course.

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