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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - EIF 2011


Kings Theatre
4 stars
Putting a six hundred page magical-realist Zen noir state-of-the-nation
novel onstage in a multi-media two-hour mash-up of film, puppetry,
shadowplay and live music isn't easy. Director Stephen Earnhart has
achieved this heroically, however, with his and co-writer Greg Pierce's
slow-burning version of Japanese writer Haruki Murakami's 1995 epic, in
which the tone is set from the off by a series of black-clad figures
slow-walking onstage to make some tai chi style gestures before
departing.

Ostensibly telling the story of how twenty-something urbanite Toru
Okada's seemingly orderly life is usurped by a series of brief
encounters he has no control over, and which plunge him into crisis, a
woozy dreamstate slowly emerges from the goo. Up until now Toru has
been sleepwalking his days away, but with the disappearance of his cat
and his wife, he embarks on a mysterious David Lynch style adventure as
all about him offload their secret histories. Only at the bottom of a
dried-up well can Toru get in touch with his secret self.

Performed in a mix of English and Japanese, Earnhart and his
co-conspirators lead us through a beguilingly immersive experience that
says much about the bridges between the personal and the public in a
quest to reclaim one's identity, cultural or otherwise. Yet this is as
ice-cool contemporary as it gets, with James Yaegashi's increasingly
befuddled Toru forced to square up to the morass of corruption, bad TV
and other rude intrusions.

All this is pulsed by Bora Yoon's beautifully paced percussive score in
a disorientating meditation on how easy it is to lose people, the
psychic scars they leave behind, and, ultimately, about letting go
enough to move on.

The Herald, August 22nd 2011

ends

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