But I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be the only one freaked out during 'Americana Kamikaze' (the new live work from American crew Temporary Distortion), a psychological horror story inspired by Japanese ghost tales. Having played across Europe, Canada and the States, it's coming to the Powerhouse to spook Brisbane audiences too.
Temporary Distortion are known for their approach to theatre - a distinctive combination of high-quality media, installation and live performances as Artistic Director Kenneth Collins explains, â€œNo single element of one of our performances is able to stand alone without the others. Our mission is to create a singular unique form that seamlessly blends theatre, cinema and installation. The success of our work is due in part to our ability to draw on the individual strengths of each form, while keeping our focus on combining them to create a cohesive whole.
The meaning of the stage text alone would be completely lacking without the story that is told on film. Likewise, the images presented on screen would lack sufficient impact if not articulated through the language and thoughts of the characters on stage. By providing only pieces of information through each form, we are able to fuse the work into an interdependent system of meanings.â€
Unlike most theatrical productions, the actors in 'Americana Kamikaze' have very little interaction on stage. They don't touch each other, look at each other, or move much at all either. It sounds pretty restrictive, and it is, but as Kenneth explains, it's an incredibly important element in the telling of a story that is made up of so many distinct pieces.
â€œWhile the characters do engage in dialogue with one another, they are constantly speaking to, or rather toward, the audience. This experience is unlike watching a traditional drama. There is an attempt to somehow disembody the character for the audience through the combination of a uniquely restrained acting style, distortion of the live voice and the somnambulistic aura of the performers. The voice of the actor becomes a whisper in the back of your mind and the action of the scene takes place in your imagination (or on film) as much as it does on stage.â€
It's almost like putting together a theatrical jigsaw puzzle. But the kind that would keep you looking over your shoulder as you're walking home late at night. After all, horror isn't usually the kind of genre that we come across much in the theatre. Drama? Sure. Comedy? That too. A witty blend of puns and mistaken identity told in a Shakespearean accent? All too frequently.
Maybe it's because for so many years cinema has dominated the telling of horror stories, it certainly has the special effects and camera angles to back it up. Outside of a few exceptions like 'The Woman in Black' and 'Ghost Stories', it's hard to find tales that chill in the same way. Temporary Distortion have taken the best of both worlds, and bring the horror story off the silver screen and into the far more personal space that we inhabit when at the theatre. It's no surprise then, that the heavy, cinematic element of horror in 'Americana Kamikaze' points to the group's shared love of cinema and its traditions.
â€œAs artists deeply interested in cinema, our recent work has taken on film genres as a point of departure for creating original new works for the stage. For â€˜Americana Kamikazeâ€™, we were interested in exploring the J-Horror film phenomenon,â€ explains Kenneth. â€œOur studies soon diverged into readings of early Japanese ghost stories, popular fiction, as well as urban legends and stories told to us by the Japanese members of the cast. But all of this has been translated very heavily through our own idiosyncratic Westernized sensibilities into what the audience will see on stage.â€
And what the audience will encounter is certainly straight from a horror film - actors trapped in claustrophobic coffin-like boxes, eerie soundscapes, creepy shadows and a big dose of Japanese urban legends and mythical nasties. Aficionados will be familiar with creatures like Kuchisake-onna (the split-mouth woman) and Noppera-bo (the faceless being) so for a maximum creep-out, brush up on your Japanese spooks first.
â€˜Americana Kamikazeâ€™ plays the Brisbane Powerhouse as part of the World Theatre Festival from February 16 to 20.