TENT

Thu 4th – Sun 28th August 2016

reviews

Lizzy Galliver

at 13:24 on 25th Aug 2016

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At first glance, ‘Tent’ is a performance about a tent. A man in a tent. A man on a mountain in a tent. At second glance, it is much more. A truly one-man show – directed, written and acted by Yuuya Ishizone – this entrancing, if not slightly mystifying, piece of contemporary Japanese theatre meditates creatively on what it means to be an outsider in a sometimes very dark world. Embodying the role of an isolated hiker, lost in an undisclosed mountainous setting and subject to rapid psychological deterioration, Ishizone’s stage presence is nothing short of breath-taking.

Interchanging between hidden but audible sequences inside the tent with an unseen companion (who may or may not exist), and external torch-lit contemplations spoken into the darkness, the unnamed protagonist takes the audience through a harrowing experience of extreme isolation – both mental and geographical. The play is contextualised to a bare minimum, drip-fed a little unsubtly to the audience through occasional video diary entries on his iPhone, but it is not the immediate plot that is relevant here. While economised explanations and abstract musings foster a niggling sense of confusion that is never completely dispelled, the same ambiguity gives free rein to self-interpretation.

Scattered references to a difficult past life in the United Kingdom, cut short by visa expiration and lack of “money or connections”, hint at the difficulty of societal and cross-cultural integration: “Wherever you go, whatever you do, you are Japanese all together”. Fears of a nearby supernatural presence leads to panicked thoughts about his own invisibility and ghost-like characteristics. Although other viewers may take away different messages, the hiker’s disorientation in the wilderness seems to me an innovative metaphor for isolation in a world where existence often feels transient and perishable. The insinuation that our protagonist has a dark, brooding secret – aided by unpredictable moments of violence and anger – feels a little unnecessary, adding a dimension of ‘thriller’ to an already rich script about the human condition.

The hiker’s story is incredibly disjointed, which – although frustrating at times – seamlessly supplements his erratic behaviour and panicked, unpredictable speech. This complexity of character is painted exquisitely by Ishizone, whose wild eyes and potent speeches are disconcertingly realistic. Excellent use of stage space and the contortion of his body in reaction to (probably imagined) contact with ghosts and companions render the performance visually enthralling. Although on the surface somewhat underwhelming, the simplicity of the set and rejection of redundant props in ‘Tent’ only magnify Ishizone’s superb grasp of his character’s nuance.

While Ishizone’s play could, at times, be mistaken for the nonsensical ramblings of a madman, a closer look reveals some important messages. Plot sparsity will undoubtedly put some viewers off, but for those willing to probe a little further into their own existential reflections, ‘Tent’ might well be the show for you.

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Hannah Sanderson

at 22:39 on 25th Aug 2016

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The simply titled ‘Tent’, written, directed and performed by the multi-talented Yuuya Ishizone is a captivating performance. This man’s energy is almost infectious and reminiscent of a professional tennis match as he springs from one side of the stage to another.

Aided by only a one-man tent and a camping lantern Ishizone otherwise commands the stage. With minimal lighting and occasional eerie sound effects he successfully creates the bleak landscape of the Japanese mountains. The deserted setting focuses the isolation onto the audience themselves.

Throughout the hour Ishizone speaks an enormous amount of words at a record speed. While this is certainly an impressive feat it does unfortunately mean that words are gabbled and their meaning lost. This does not detract from the performance however because Ishizone varied facial expressions and gestures help the audience to follow the plot. These movements build up to a climax of the play where Ishizone shows his character’s loss of sanity. Shouting and squirming around the stage he manages both to terrify the audience but also make them pity him. A clever effect is when Ishizone disappears into the tent leaving only his camping lantern to light the stage. This focuses the action on the tent and also impresses on the audience how alone Ishizone is meant to be.

Another interesting aspect of the play is the way Ishizone uses his phone to record a log book of his situation. Constantly referencing the emptiness and darkness and his own inevitable death Ishizone frightens his audience with his desperate pleas for help.

It is unclear whether the audience is supposed to completely understand Ishizone erratic ramblings. The play’s language certainly does deteriorate towards the end as Ishizone addresses half his words out and the rest curled up in a ball. This is a shame as it means that the final ten minutes of the play are completely incoherent. If Ishizone does want his spectators to leave the theatre possessing a clear image of the plot then, unfortunately, he fails. However, I do not believe this is the case. The only feeling the audience should possess at the end of the play is fear that similar events could happen to them. This sensation Ishizone successfully portrays and it displays his talent as an actor that he can manage it with just his words.

This is not just a play about one man’s insanity however but also a social commentary on Japan. Ishizone punctuates his narrative with comments on how one can be just as lonely in a packed rush hour train as in the wilderness. This fascinating play is performed by a skillful actor. With a little more work on his coherency it will be a wonderful work of art.

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