Somebody in the dress circle has forgotten to pre-order their interval drink, the student up in the £5 seats feels miles away, and a lady in the stalls grows increasingly irritable as her date grows increasingly late. Even as the curtains rise and our lone performer launches into a Shakespearean soliloquy, things don’t look much brighter. Those in the cheap seats can only see the top of his head, but the supposedly privileged ones fare no better – with melodramatically flung limbs and a faltering meter, he’s a dismal actor, and while the lines from Hamlet may be familiar, nobody knows what’s going on.
Thankfully, zoologist-turned-performance artist Mamoru Iriguchi knows a thing or two about audiences, and these distractions and preoccupations are all ideas he projects onto viewers before we even have chance to question his art. In the first of this trilogy of short pieces, One Man Show, Iriguchi stands in the middle of four projector screens – each bearing his performance as seen from different vantage points, and the thought and speech bubbles that go along with each view. The unpunctual boyfriend arrives, the projected audience settles and, for a while, all five angles of Iriguchi run in real time. This synchronicity doesn’t last long, mind. When, through comic-book thought-bubbles, an English tutor in the dress circle expresses dissatisfaction, their projection of Iriguchi takes time out to revise his technique; the insultingly visible top of Iriguchi’s head becomes a natural target for the bemused student’s ball of crumpled paper on the first screen; and, on the third projection, with the date in the stalls now drunk and sleepy, another Iriguchi has time for a few minutes’ rest and a couple of swigs of wine.
As live Iriguchi and his four pre-recorded counterparts loop together to unravel this faulty performance with a seemingly effortless low-fi charm, the balance and engineering of this production is impeccable. In fact, such sharp coordination continues throughout the three pieces tonight and this, along with Iriguchi’s unassumingly captivating stage presence, is the major joy of the programme. In the second piece, transgender intergalactic love-story Projector/Conjector, Iriguchi dons a computer monitor, and is joined by a projector-sporting Selina Papoutseli to rewrite Tchaikovsky. In the pair’s pixelated world, props can be pulled from the back of screens, and genders can be exchanged as easily as onesies. In a retro pas de deux that is at once simplistic, and tightly cued and choreographed, Iriguchi and Papoutseli navigate the space of the digital as well as the area of the performance space. Side stepping across the stage, Iriguchi neatly counters the direction of the text that rolls across his screen, as if exposing the physical space it occupies.
When man and machine appear on stage as one, projection is not merely a mode of storytelling. With performers disfigured by the media they wear, Projector/Conjector exposes the ideas we put out, and the ideas that we eat up. In this surrealistic retelling of Swan Lake, the backdrop of an enlarged cracked egg creates a place to recalculate the birth and development of concept. Quirks and absurdities are served in abundance, but in teasing at the ludicrousness and paradoxes of popular culture, Iriguchi fashions his own trail of logic and leaves his source text in the firing range.
While certainly a less elaborate composition, the final piece, GRAFT, is not short on humour. Iriguchi returns to the stage as a lone performer but, surrounded by a chamber choir of laptops, he is far from isolated. Here, just like in One Man Show, Iriguchi’s fascination with an individual’s multiple depictions is back in focus. Our performer has lost his shadow but, through the help of one of his many computers, Skype and a genius wave of uncanniness, he has managed to find his identical twin. Though physically apart, the brothers experience parallel situations; both, in a spell of dreamlike absurdity, find themselves looking out on the blue skies and green fields of a Windows stock desktop photo; simultaneously, they are drowned by coffee, to the point that their conversation can no longer continue. With his mirror image hidden by the rising caffeinated tides, Iriguchi seeks new channels for his fixation with his body and its imagery using the computers around him.
Toying with the boundaries in multimedia, using digital imageries both as a means of critiquing tired ideas and as a way of escaping them, Iriguchi is constantly physicalizing the digital. The show unifies media and ideas so that projection becomes reality, and vice versa. With meticulously-timed layering and messy wiring coating the stage, Iriguchi sets himself up for the occasional trip, yet his false starts and the show’s fragility are all reminders that man-made identities are as fickle and as whimsical as the technologies that now help us to distribute them.