Rey Camoyis a corporeal mime show put on by Osaka-based theatre troupe Tarinainanika, inspired by the life and artwork of Rey Camoy, a 20th century Japanese painter.
The small cast (only six actors) are incredibly talented and portray Camoy and the characters he created in his paintings. The set design is also minimal, with only a few pieces of white furniture, thus keeping the audience’s focus on the actors and their physicality. The mime itself is almost like watching a dance, as the actors move with the sombre – and at points, eerie – music that plays throughout the show, and there is no dialogue. While Rey Camoy may be hard to follow if you’re not a theatre aficionado, it is an intensely artistic and unique show that is well worth seeing.
Tarinainanika were invited to perform at the Northcott by the University of Exeter Department of Communications, Drama and Film in an effort to encourage cultural exchange. They also hosted a workshop and research seminar for those interested in their style of theatre. Exeposé were lucky enough to interview Tania Coke, co-artistic director of Tarinainanika, about the show.
Exeposé: How would you describe ‘corporeal mime’ to those unfamiliar with it?
Coke: Corporeal Mime is an approach to theatre based on the expressive power of the body. It helps actors create drama out of postures and actions, by making creative choices about the geometrical positioning of the parts of the body, the rhythm and texture of movement, the placement of people and objects in space and so on.
E: Was there a reason you chose to focus on Rey Camoy for this show? Was there a certain aspect of Camoy’s paintings that inspired you to create a piece that focused on his work?
C: About two years ago we were invited to make a movie in a location in Ishikawa Prefecture. Whilst researching the area we discovered that the painter Rey Camoy was from this area. We had already come across his paintings and been inspired by many aspects of his work such as the way he uses the human form to express states of mind, his intense longing for beauty and his incessant search for himself through his paintings. Since our main work is theatre, we decided to first create a stage production and later adapt it for the screen.
E: How do you think your style of physical theatre helps to reimagine Camoy’s life and art?
C: Our style of acting is not realistic. We are not trying to recreate scenes from life, but to create stylised expressions, emphasising the aspects we are most interested in and eliminating everything else. This preference for stylisation is common among painters, and Rey Camoy was no exception. His paintings are not trying to be like photos. The colours and expressions are exaggerated. The spatial compositions are carefully chosen for dramatic effect. The backgrounds are edited out completely. Also, like painting, our style of theatre does not rely on dialogue or plot and the viewer is free to fill in details using their own imagination.
Our style of acting is not realistic. We are not trying to recreate scenes from life, but to create stylised expressions
E: Do you think audiences in the UK will react differently to the show than Japanese audiences?
C: I don’t think there will be a big difference in how our show is seen in the UK compared to Japan. Rey Camoy has a dedicated following in Japan but it is far from mainstream, so very few people even in Japan would watch our show and be able to recognise the paintings. Also, Camoy’s paintings are not typically Japanese. He lived in many different countries and perhaps as a result his style is universal. That’s another reason why we relate to his work.
E: Have there been any particular positives, or challenges, with bringing the show to the UK?
C: Just one of the many challenges of bringing our show to the UK is having to reconstruct the set. We work very precisely with objects and will need to reconstruct the table, chairs and mirror to exactly the same measurements or adapt our movements and re-rehearse in a very short time. Here’s hoping we succeed!! One of the biggest positives will be the thrill of connecting with audiences across the cultural divide. 5 out of 8 of our team have never been to the UK. It will be so special for them, and for all of us, to communicate across this divide.
E: Do you have a favourite painting of Camoy’s? What makes it your favourite? Was there a specific painting provided inspiration for the show?
C: Camoy produced a lot of paintings with moths. The one I’m thinking of right now depicts a weary-looking old man in a black coat who is trying to grab a moth that is fluttering around him. You can sense in him both longing and helplessness – the desire to grasp the ungraspable. It’s so touching. There’s no one painting that inspired our show, but the painting “Myself, 1982” was certainly one of the big motivations. Camoy paints himself sitting in front of a blank canvas, looking somewhat lost. Standing around him are the recurring characters you see in his works: a clown, a drunk, a fat old woman, a disabled soldier, a naked woman. It seems to say something about how real these characters were to him. This helped spark the idea of a show about the artist interacting with his own creations.
If you want to go into theatre, try and figure out what you want to do and why
E: What advice have you got for students that want to go into theatre?
C: If you want to go into theatre, try and figure out what you want to do and why. Do you want to be on the stage or in the tech booth? If on stage, do you want to be given a role and a script or do you want to create worlds from a blank slate, using your own imagination? If the latter, there’s a school in Osaka where you can learn. And to tell the truth, one of our secret hopes for this tour is that we manage to inspire at least one person to come to Osaka to study with us…