Thursday 23 March 2023

IN-VOCATION たまおこし review

After an utterly incredible show with Buried TeaBowl - Okuni last year, performance artist Yumi Umiumare returns with IN-VOCATION たまおこし, a potent pairing to the 2022 show. With its predecessor exploring time, ritual, the past and the present through her connection to Okuni, a 17th century Japanese dancer credited as being the founder of kabuki theatre, this new show digs deeper into Okuni's life, with a focus on releasing the "Okuni spirit" inside all of us.

Joining Umiumare are two Japanese artists, Kayo Tamura, a shaman in theatre and Kyoko Amara, a professional clairvoyant and singer. This trio perform music, dance, rituals and storytelling as they share and discover the many characters of Okuni. With the Japanese title of the show translating to provoking / awakening the soul, it's fitting that a shrine to the womb sits in the middle of the stage as the three build and release the female power and energy of Okuni. They go big and bold in their acts but maintain an intimacy and authenticity with their audience that allows us to open our minds and hearts to what we are witnessing.

Umiumare is a masterful storyteller with everything she says full of strong emotion and vulnerability. Her sharing of her brother's (and father's) passing is short but it is one of the more stirring moments. Tamura's shamanistic acts, including her singing / chanting, are absolutely captivating to watch as you hear the passion in which she sings with. Tamura is unforgettable singing the Japanese version of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way"(who could also be an Okuni according to Umiumare). Umiumare is constantly experimenting with what theatre and live art can be, and with IN-VOCATION たまおこし we are treated to a 3D presentation that becomes another unique way of highlighting the force of Okuni.

Throughout the show, there is once again a thread of remembering and honouring the past to live in the present and work towards the future. This idea is intelligently conveyed with the costumes and sound design. A mix of traditional and contemporary vibrant coloured clothing and fabrics are worn and displayed and are used to great effect. The sound design effortlessly brings together the historic music of kabuki theatre and modern club beats.

The three performers have plenty they want to express and for the most part, they present a highly structured and considered production, but the final 20 minutes could do with some restructuring with certain acts going for too long or being unnecessary with what has come before. Nevertheless, it is impossible to not feel changed, or at the very least, to desire the need for change and think about what our rituals are and could be. If only more performance art could encourage and nurture us to awaken the spirit within the way IN-VOCATION たまおこし does.

Show Details

Venue: Dancehouse, 150 Princes St, Nth Carlton

Season: Tuesday 28 March | 7pm and 9pm
Duration: 100 minutes

Tickets: $30 Full | $25 Concession

Image credit: Vikk Shayen

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