Humour and Tragedy in Iriguchi Triple Bill

United KingdomUnited Kingdom   Various Composers, One Man Show, Projector/Conjector, GRAFT: Mamoru Iriguchi/The Place, The Place, London, 28.5.2014 (J.O’D)

Mamoru Igiuchi One Man Show Photo by Benedict Johnson
Mamoru Igiuchi One Man Show Photo by Benedict Johnson


One  Man Show
Concept, Design & Performance: Mamoru Iriguchi
Dramaturgy: Nikki Tomlinson, Selina Papoutseli
Technical Supervision and Operation: Nao Nagai
Costume co-design/supervision: Maria Garcia

Performance & Operation: Mamoru Iriguchi
Performance & Operation: Selina Papoutseli
Dramaturgy:  Nikki Tomlinson
Music: Swan Lake (Tchaikovsky)

Concept, Design & Performance: Mamoru Iriguchi
Dramaturgy:  Nikki Tomlinson, Selina Papoutseli
Technical Supervision and Operation: Nao Nagai
Music: When You Wish upon a Star (Harline & Washington)

Mamoru Iriguchi, a performance artist and theatre designer who originally trained in zoology, continued the Spring Loaded season at The Place with a triple bill of his work. All three pieces contain moments of humour that made the audience laugh out loud. All three had a core of tragedy at their centre. Iriguchi uses technology in a way that looks charmingly naïve (images on a computer screen, for example, morph into props on the stage). Any naivety about his work, however, is faux. As a performer, and manipulator of ‘2D and 3D’, Iriguchi is highly sophisticated. However, I found it was the two shorter, single-idea pieces in the programme that worked best.

One Man Show, the first of these and a 2012 Place Prize commission, is not a one-man show. It also includes four pre-recorded images of Iriguchi (projected on to different screens), with which the live version interacts. Representing the performer from the point of view of four members of an audience in different parts of a theatre (one in the balcony, two in the stalls, one in the dress circle), the images respond according to how they are seen. Thought bubbles that appear on the screens show what the people watching think (‘I must remember to pick up milk on the way home’). As all five Iriguchi’s recite Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy (the tragic making its entrance unnoticed behind the comic at this stage of the work), one of them accepts a manual on how to act from the man in the dress circle, then gets a job in television. Another is obscured by the inside of a cartoon eyelid as the viewer watching him from the stalls falls asleep. The tone of the piece changes when the live Iriguchi appears in a white dress and begins to recite, as Ophelia, the ‘To be or not to be’ speech.

ProCon  Robert Day
Pro Con Robert Day

The second, and longest, work in the programme, Projector/Conjector, transports its two performers (Iriguchi with a flat-screen TV on his head; Selina Papoutseli with a projector on hers) to Planet Swan Lake. The ballet provides the tragic reference for the piece, along with Tchaikovsky’s inventively used music. A complex, though also on-the-surface humorous study of gender and transformation, Projector/Conjector makes use of brightly coloured animation, and shows the influence of Iriguchi’s background in zoology (at one point he is made pregnant by a swan). The presence of a second (i.e. different) performer, though, does not really work alongside Iriguchi’s deceptively disarming but dominating stage presence. Perhaps only he can carry off his idiosyncratic technique. Perhaps he has to be alone on the stage, or accompanied only by images of himself. For all its inventiveness, this piece was somehow the least effective. Possibly because it ended on a comic note.

It is alone, and accompanied briefly by a screen image of himself as his twin brother, that Iriguchi appears in the final ‘work in progress’, the Spring Loaded 2014 commission, GRAFT. Like One Man Show, this becomes progressively darker. Six laptops are laid out on the floor. Wearing a dressing gown, Iriguchi appears among them to recount a simple tale of spilling coffee that morning on his computer. As he does so, the green fields and blue sky on each computer screen, and on the backdrop, become obliterated by what looks like thick, brown liquid. Iriguchi then paints his lips (while his recorded voice speaks of not liking his lips as a child) with liquid of the same colour he produces from inside his mouth. By mixing the 2D and the 3D, Iriguchi goes on to ‘leave’ pieces of his body on the different computer screens. He is shedding his body. It is an eerie transformation, effected to the tune of When You Wish upon a Star. The music, and the stars on the backdrop (pieces of his thrown away ‘skin’), would make it magical. That is, if to see someone making himself invisible in this way was not so very, strangely, sad.

John O’Dwyer

Leave a Comment