Interview with Kae Ishimoto

What interested you about THE鍵KEY?

After the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, I lost my belief in the power of art. I started to doubt the normal custom of performing art, that of a performer performing on stage. I began asking “Why do we make art?” and “Why do audiences get together to see humans by paying a ticket fee, and what do they expect to see at the theatre?” I then started to create site-specific / immersive theatre around 2013, so it was very natural to join THE鍵KEY project that has a similar aesthetic. Audiences feel signs of life in the humid darkness of a classic Japanese house but, they never see everything of the simultaneous performances. The frustration gives the audience more desire to watch. It is an “experience” that the audience can’t get at the normal theatre where performance happens within a boundary. I wanted to co-create the “experience” with the THE鍵KEY team.

How did you become involved with THE鍵KEY?

My research group POHRC (Perspectives On Hijikata Research Collective) was founded with my co-director Rosa van Hensbergen with the aim of  researching the Butoh notation system “Butoh-fu”, created by Butoh founder Tatsumi Hijikata. Rosa received a grant from the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, and through her I could meet the director Francesca Le Lohé and Alexandra Rutter,  the dramaturg of the production. They came to my performance, “Inventory of my life” which I created with Rosa, and I was invited to participate in the THE鍵KEY production.    

How was the character of Kimura created, and how was the choreography developed?  

I was interested in Francesca and Alexandra’s idea of how to show Kimura’s mysterious character. In the original novel, we can only see from the husband and wife’s viewpoints, and we can’t reach Kimura’s own voice. In the performance, I wanted to leave doubt in the audience’s mind: What is Kimura like? Therefore, I put emphasis on creating completely different characters based on the contradictory  viewpoints, one from the wife and other from the daughter.    The choreography was created with the dancers based on the Butoh-fu method, especially the idea of “being” and how to use sensations of the body. One of the reasons why Butoh is often explained in the context of physical theatre is due to the idea of “being” human characters  or objects in a painting. The meaning of “being” is not “acting” a character, it is the reality of existence. Intensity – convincing an audience by “being” in a space; it is not easy, but essential. Audiences can find amazing details that we cannot normally present on the regular sized stage. So, I intentionally chose polished micro-movements to keep the intensity.

What were the greatest challenges faced when working on THE鍵KEY?  

The dancer was required to maintain deep concentration. Even a second of distraction is obvious for the audience while they keep moving randomly through the house. The performer is not in a “safe zone” on a stage like normal theatre, so he needs to be always flexible to react to unexpected actions by audiences while he is working on extremely delicate sensations of the body. The circumstances were very challenging for the dancer. 

In a normal setting, development in performance is important. But in this performance, the audience keeps missing the flow of the choreography. Therefore, it is important to show the character clearly  whenever the audience comes into the room. So rather than showing a process of development, I focused on distinct expressions with detailed movements. The density in the room is the most important element of the choreography in THE鍵KEY projects. It is easy to say, but it is indeed difficult to do.  

(English translation: Kae Ishimoto)