The fairy tale “The Restaurant of Many Orders” (注文の多い料理店) written by Kenji Miyazawa was given a contemporary light by Koike Hiroshi Bridge Project last night at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Written, directed and choreographed by Hiroshi Koike, the play fused written literature and performing arts, silence and music, man and beasts. Actors Tetsuro Koyano, Sae Namba and Ayako Araki played three hunters, or as they said “Japanese gentlemen,” who got too caught up with corporeal necessity: food.
The performance began in silence with only slow and sporadic rattle sounds. When the lights went off, the three actors appeared. They were very steady and meticulous with every movement as they maneuvered sticks, their guns. During their hunt, they had to traverse torrential winds, which was beautifully interpreted in effortless tumbles and constant jacket flailing. The fuller and louder sounds, smoke machine and flashing lights gave the scene a frightening disorientation to both the characters and the audience.
Past the natural calamity, they arrived at the doorstep of the Mountain Cat Inn Restaurant. They were greeted by a disembodied voice, which gave me the impression that it came from a mechanized Cheshire Cat. The two older brothers, Koyano and Namba, left their brother outside the restaurant and ate food enough for three – or probably more – people. Little did they know, the youngest, Araki, had transformed into a beast who manned the restaurant.
The scene reminded me of Hansel and Gretel’s story, how the guests were being fattened up, offered vinegar as perfume and asked to rub salt all over their body. Basically, even in human form, the hunters who claimed to be gentlemen had bestial qualities to them. In fact, they found themselves eating patches of their absent brother’s clothes. So much for distinguishing between man and animals.
Eventually, the hunters found themselves alive and back to reality a little confused which to wear: their hunting caps or the animal masks.
Hiroshi Koike’s team performed The Restaurant of Many Orders in Chiba, Osaka and other parts of Japan. Their Asian tour began ín the Philippines and they will continue to perform in Indonesia, Malaysia, and India.