What was the inspiration for this performance?
Originally we set out to make a happy sci-fi musical about the future - butalmost all of our inital improvisations were images of a dystopic future. These images slowly started to shape the universe of what YŌKAI would become. Later, the link to the Japanese folklore of the yōkais occurred: the way these creatures impact the world of humans, resonated well with universe and stories we had discovered.
Witnessing different despairing events in the period of the creation of the show - events on a global level, in society and for individuals around us, led the show in this direction. So, the inspiration was actually quite the opposite of what YŌKAI is today.
How did you go about gathering the team for it?
We’re all graduates of the same year from École Jacques Lecoq, Paris. At Lecoq a big international group of students work and create together in different configurations. After doing this for two years you find people you work well with – people with whom you share and develop visions and tastes, but at the same time are diverse and different from each other.
After those two years at Lecoq, we decided we wanted to continue to work, develop and go wild together.
How did you become interested in making performance?
We are six different performers from four different countries, with six quite different backgrounds ranging from text based theatre, impro theatre, film, to dance, magic and music. So this question has six pretty different responses and stories, though similar for all of us is the combination of a strong experience of witnessing live performance combined with the experience of presenting just that for a live audience.
Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
YŌKAI is our first full creation in this particular constellation. So in that sense nothing has been typical. That being said, we create collectively and devised using improvisation and movement, without a written manuscript, without a director nor scenographer, and this is a typical way of working for us since Lecoq.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
We’re aiming to create a space for both laughter and tears - a space where the audience can switch from one to the other rapidly; maybe even experience both at the same time. We’re hoping they’ll have an experience not unlike that of a magic box or even fireworks, where things pop-up, light up, fade away, disappear and surprise. Finally leaving the audience with a feeling that everything is (still) possible.
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
The performers’ relationship with the audience plays a significant role in the show. The present, intrusive gaze towards the audience makes one question what is serious and what is not. The yōkai eagerly presents and illustrates, but fear they aren't being clear enough. So they emphasize. Their gestures and movement are repeated and simplified, creating a sort of choreography of approximate movements. These moments intertwine with the manipulation of a miniature world and scenes played out by the manipulators.
In YŌKAI we mix theatre, dance, magic, poetry and utter stupidity, to create a dynamic, physical engaged performance style with expressive movement and a lot of surprises. We really seek to create a language without borders through the expression of the human body, where the audience never can be sure of what comes next.
Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
YŌKAI moves between the realms of physical theatre, mime, clown, dance, magic, object theatre, puppetry and poetry. The spoken word is present, but has a minor role - while movement, the body, and visual images are the main elements.
Because of this interdisciplinary stew, we don’t really see YŌKAI within a particular tradition, other than the life-affirming tradition of making something that is entertaining - while still having something to say.