Yamato – Passion
Reviewed – 12th March 2019
“I was pleased to see the women on the huge drums, beating out their passion and zest as strongly as the men”
Passion, energy, joy. Passion is a dazzling meditation in sound, movement and power, interspersed with delightful comedic moments.
Yamato was founded in 1993 by Masa Ogawa. The performers live and work together in Nara Prefecture, Japan. Ogawa ‘composes, choreographs and works on the theatrical designs of all the music,’ and his vision is wonderfully brought to life by the virtuosity of the performers. The taiko drums are an important part of traditional Japanese music, and Ogawa takes the traditional into his own compositions, creating compelling and captivating sound and movement. The opening piece used Japanese lanterns, reminding me of strolls through Kyoto and evenings in the quieter parts of Tokyo last year, and when the drumming began it was immediately evident that we were in for something very special.
In addition to the many different sizes of drum, there is music from traditional Japanese flute and samisen, a three stringed lute, mingling with the hypnotic rhythms. The earthy boom of the great drums is the heartbeat of the music, sometimes steady and slow, sometimes racing with breathtaking speed and complexity. At times there is a shamanic quality to the scene, drummers spinning wildly, ecstatic within the pulsing music. Then, while the drums are moved into new positions, there are some wonderful interludes. Without a word being spoken in English the audience is invited to clap rhythms and is drawn into a comedy ‘drum-off’ between performers. I was expecting to be awed by the music; I wasn’t expecting to be laughing my head off!
The drumming is a whole body activity. It feels as though every part of the drummer, body, mind and spirit, is involved in the creation of the beat. The strength and agility of the cast is astounding, and they make is seem effortless, with an intensity of focus and communication between them that pulls the audience into the pulsing energy, and into the joy of exhilarating sound. Above all, we see the drummer’s humanity. The intensely spiritual undercurrent of the drums is created by people that we can relate to; a cast that is clearly totally involved and greatly enjoying every moment of the show. The six men and four women who performed were all superb. And I was pleased to see the women on the huge drums, beating out their passion and zest as strongly as the men, as we all revelled in the community of sound. Do go and see this if you can, before Yamato go off on the rest of their world tour.
Reviewed by Katre
Photography by Masa Ogawa
Yamato – Passion
Peacock Theatre until 31st March
Previously reviewed at this venue: