[color]Omoitsutsu[/color] Was it because
[color]Nureba ya hito no[/color] I fell asleep thinking of love
[color]Mietsuramu[/color] That he appeared to me?
[color]Yume to shiriseba[/color] Had I known it was a dream
[color]Samezaramashi wo[/color] I would never have awakened
-Ono no Komachi (c. 825 – c. 900) Japanese waka poetess
In Western literature and art, and indeed in Western thought in general, there has been a long-standing tradition of identifying love with death. Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Iseult, Anthony and Cleopatra and Freud’s association of Eros and Thanatos are just a few examples that spring to mind. In Japanese literary traditions, love has been associated with dreams. The Buddhist implication behind this is clear. At the heart of Buddhist philosophy is an acknowledgment of the transience of experience and the lack of permanence in human affairs. Of course, such transience is believed to underlie all worldly existence, but Japanese poets grounded much of their understanding of ephemerality in their treatment of love.
Love is indeed one of the more evanescent, fickle and mysterious of human emotions. Its power over us is singular. Love engulfs us; surprises us; abandons us. Love elevates us. Love tortures us. It moves us. It halts us. We are slaves to love. We are masters of love. But how do we know that love is not some elaborate trickery – the result of psychological projection, our fear of being alone, centuries of tradition, and a lifetime of socialization by Celine Dion songs, Meg Ryan movies and TV commercials? And if love is an illusion, why does it feel so real? Should we just ignore our hearts and give up on love? Or, is there anything to gain from surrendering to the spell of love and succumbing to its reverie?
It is these questions that Daniel MacIvor tackles with Arigato, Tokyo. A true man of the theatre, MacIvor has turned to classical Japanese Noh theatre to frame his exploration. Noh theatre is a form that dates back to the 14th century. Many of its characters are masked. Its plays are structured around chanting and employ a codified system of physical gestures. The actors’ movements are slow, the language is poetic, and the overall tone is trance inducing. Plots are usually drawn from legend and classical literature. The most impressive Noh plays are cautionary tales about romantic attachment.
Like love, great art creates a sense of expansiveness and eternity. It launches a search for understanding that is inexhaustible. Like an elaborate seduction, beneath each and every perceptible meaning lie others. Like a love affair, it always carries a seemingly infinite potential of new subtleties, inversions, secret codes and ineffabilities. With Arigato, Tokyo, MacIvor invites us into a world filled with ambiguity, mystery and beauty. He gives us space to contemplate what it means to have a heart. He allows us to see beyond the waking dream that is love. He shows us that it is both the truth of love and the lie of love that completes our humanity.
Enjoy the show!
Brendan Healy, Artistic Director