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1 Goldfoxes Dogugaeshi 11

Basil Twist’s Dogugaeshi in Berkeley

Above: One of the many layers of screens from Dogugaeshi coming to Cal Performances November 6-10, 2013 (PHOTO: Steve Menendez)

Review by Jo Tomalin

Evocative Dogugaeshi  by Basil Twist

Pictured: Basil Twist brings his award-winning production Dogugaeshi to Cal Performances November 6-10, 2013.

Award-winning  U.S. puppeteer Basil Twist performed Dogugaeshi, November 6-10 2013 at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Playhouse produced by Cal Performances.  This production is a Bay Area première, which was originally conceived and developed by Twist in 2003 with its World première in 2004 in New York through a Japan Society commission.

Dogugaeshi is a Japanese word for a system of beautifully painted screens that slide or unfold, quickly revealing scenery or patterns based on the backdrops of Japan’s centuries old traditional  puppet theatre. Twist has taken the concept of the changing screens or set changes and created an intricate non-narrative visual story infusing  his original artistry.

The one hour performance of Dogugaeshi starts with the traditional Japanese wood block sounds of Japan’s dramatic Kabuki and Bunraku puppet shows. Next, Twists creativity takes over – a curtain opens, a smaller curtain opens and an even smaller curtain opens…then we see a clip of old shaky black and white film, sound of the shamisen – an ancient Japanese stringed instrument – then a sequence of doors that get smaller. A candle and pointy eared white animal puppet with a long noble face appear at the front of the stage between gently moving waves with sound effects of water (Sound Designer, Greg Duffin). That’s all in the first few minutes!

Twist and his team of puppeteers (Kate Brehm, David Ojala, Jessica Scott) skillfully manipulate objects and scores of screens interspersed by video projections (Projection Designer Peter Flaherty) to create a rich magical sensory experience which continually surprises.

Screens appear, their painted images change magically to Dragons and tigers, or bamboo then abstract shapes. Kaleidoscopic changes go from vibrant colored patterns to a vortex of blue and purple swirls. Trees show the four seasons change with fast and slick transitions.

In mystical shadows tiny puppets grow in front of us to show delicate and poignant images of village life. Throughout the show,  there is drama, angst, and even a storm when giant windows float and hang on a thread of the deconstructed set.

Musical Direction and Sound Design by Yumiko Tanaka, the Shamisen is played live by Tanaka. In addition, traditional music makes way for show tunes, melodic and mesmeric soundscapes, and technomusic.

Exquisitely slow lighting transitions (Lighting Design by Andrew Hill) create the atmosphere of another world on the screens and especially on the shamisen and player when they appear on a turntable .

Basil Twist’s Dogugaeshi is a beautiful ballet of the screens – it’s also an evocative spiritual journey through time and place.

More information:
Basil Twist
Cal Performances


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