The ‘technodelic entertainment’ of this group from Sindai, Japan might be fun in small doses, maybe at a festival or in a music video but it isn’t witty or slick enough to catch the humour and attention of anyone sober or over the age of thirteen for a whole hour. A sequence of short set pieces with titles like ‘Connect x Connect’ and ‘Box’ march along to endless techno music. There are lasers, multi-coloured flashing lights in suits and cubes, and an abundance of 90s video gaming references. In one routine, performers make with their bodies a selection of fashionable sportswear logos. Combined with the blaring music, this provides all the enjoyment of a visit to a tourist shop on Oxford Street.
Technically precise and with a variety of impressive live film techniques, the show never transcends its technological wizardry to produce something watchable on any other level. You might enjoy the show – there were people who appeared to – but for me the audience’s empty laughter just added to the sense that we were being unwittingly put under mass control. You know that bit in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange when his eyes get pinned open and there’s a voice going ‘Science must dig its way into the human brain crushing the instinct’? SIRO-A place so much emphasis on high-tech brilliance that mere human emotion has no role; we serve the machine, even in dance. We ‘meet’ a computer image of Abe Toshinori’s face again and again, along with pictures of his family and a Google World view of his house. When he pulls the enormous white plastic drum off his head to reveal a Real Human Person underneath it is like a magic trick from the nightmare future. If I see or hear this show again I may well be doubled over and screaming with pain.
SIRO-A are billed as ‘Japan’s answer to the Blue Man Group’ and they call the show a comedy but there is little of the tongue-in-cheek humour I expected. The four male performers are identifiable from each other by their signature haircuts and are at their funniest when appearing in a sort of boy band parody with laser guns and metal cone heads. It seems like SIRO-A take themselves quite seriously though and I don’t think they were intending satire. What they do demonstrate is their hypercorrectness in terms of placing to catch the next projection. Even then, it looked like they had markers on the floor for the boxes and the routines are all choreographed, so there is no element of spontaneity in what we’re seeing. In fact, we just get beadier eyes for mistakes, desperate to see some component of risk. The cross-media tricks are well timed but they’re hardly mind-blowing because you can see all the strings. At one point I wondered if the performers were even having fun. I know the Japanese are famous for their work ethic but so are ballet dancers. Usually the idea is to keep the drilling to the rehearsal room and let the impression of ease, joy and beauty wash over the audience. Here the drilling is on stage, which is as unnerving as the smiling and waving of the clowns. SIRO is apparently derived from the word for colourless – on the contrary, this show is awash with colour to the detriment of the material.