Academic journal article About Performance

OPERATION HYPOTHESIS: Tadashi Suzuki's 'Toll and Trouble' Tour Australia 1992

Academic journal article About Performance

OPERATION HYPOTHESIS: Tadashi Suzuki's 'Toll and Trouble' Tour Australia 1992

Article excerpt

He is a fanatic. I say that in a very positive way. He has both the gentleness and the fanaticism of a real artist.

Carrillo Gantner

Playbox Theatre Company, Melbourne

A lot of times lfeel like theatre as an art form has fallen asleep and Suzuki is this alarm clock

Leon Ingulsrud

Suzuki's interpreter and Assistant Director on The Chronicle of Macbeth

If you use the words religious cultfairly loosely, you would say that his company is based on some sort of line where everybody has to go along with his vision.

Peter Currin

performer playing Macbeth.

In world theatre terms he still is a very important figure. You talk of Suzuki, you talk of Grotowski, you talk ofTrevor Hunn,you talk of Peter Brook, all in the same breath.

Leonard Radie

critic with The Age

In 1992 Japanese director Tadashi Suzuki was invited by Playbox Theatre Company, Melbourne, to stage an adaptation of Macbeth using Australian performers. This paper will firstly take a look at some of the fundamental aspects of the 'Suzuki Method'; then will set out to examine the gap between the concept of this theatrical undertaking and the perceived outcome, by some of those directly involved, and by some of those observing. I would also like to discuss the potency of a first-hand engagement with this discipline and the effects it has on performance.

For some time prior to 1992, Australian performers had been travelling to the SCOT (Suzuki Company of Toga) home-its location: a remote mountain village in northern Japan. In the company's converted farmhouses, performers were able to take beginners' workshops in the 'Suzuki Method'; in many cases returning for a series of masters workshops, enabling practitioners to teach The Suzuki Method in Australia. For The Chronicle of Macbeth, Suzuki's adaptation, Suzuki ran a series of workshops in Melbourne in order to select an Australian cast. His observation:

Australian actors do not have a long theatrical tradition to the extent they lack a certain tradition, they lack certain habits and sensibilities that would bind them unconsciously. This is both good and bad, there is a sense of freedom there, but aLso a lack of structure. An actor who comes from a strong tradition carries it within his own body.1

The 'Suzuki Method' is based on a series of exercises designed to focus the energy of the performer; it was Suzuki's desire to

find a rational ground common to both traditional and modern theatrical forms 2 and to draw upon the physicaLity of the Japanese as an agricultural people, such as the feet planted in the earth.3

One of the most fundamental exercises encapsulating the latter, is the 'three minute stomp'. The performer must stomp the feet, not on the ground, but into the ground, picturing the foot landing several centimetres below floor level. The knees are bent, back straight, arms curved slightly by the sides. The upper torso is still, the arms should not shift. The performers stomp along straight lines in grid patterns, each foot landing one slightly in front of the other. Introduction to Suzuki begins with the three minute stomp. It is the plié. It is implied, if not openly stated, that if the performer cannot master the stomping exercise, then perhaps they should consider whether or not to continue performing at all! The 'ten walks', the 'marches', 'standing and sitting stat-ues', the 'slow walks', 'fast arms', 'falling teddies', all become part of the performers' vocabulary.

Yukihiro Coto, in his article: The Theatrical fusion of Suzuki Tadashi, looks at the origins of some of these exercises.

The slow walks:

sliding foot movements, resembling the no walk called suriashi, that sustains an effortless glide.4

The series of marches is a movement similar to the bravura-style (aragoto) of kabuki, during which:

the performer walks deliberately, stretching their arms before their bodies and extending their legs forward. …

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