l Intimate gestures

Ellie Carr met Japanese dancer Shakti and found out exactly what makes a Bhuddist temple shake.

It‘s easy to get the wrong impression about Shakti ‘dances of the exotic and mystique‘. ()nce l'd seen the photos of her draped in clingfilm and heard about her dance version of the Karma Sutra I thought I was about to meet the Japanese answer to a seedy little act down Edinburgh‘s West Port. What i wasn‘t prepared for was the candid introduction to her ‘husband- manager‘. ‘Well Mr Shakti. what can you tell me about your wife‘s exotic dancing'?‘ was not the question I'd been expecting to ask.

I needn‘t have worried. As it turns : out. Shakti is one self-assured. liberated and intelligent woman quite capable of speaking for herself and said hubby

- sf Shakti: eroticism and spirituality

never got a word in edgeways. As she kicks off her cork-soled platform shoes. adopts an easy lotus position on the couch and begins to talk about her work. the go-go bar questions fade quickly from my mind. ‘My dance is

! erotic.‘ she says plainly. ‘but it‘s not

designed to titillate men. That’s why at least 50 per cent of my audience are women.‘


Her striking lndo-Japanese looks spell out a mixed heritage and as she explains. it is the push and pull ofthose two distinct cultures that forms the basis of her work. ‘I combine Yogic and lndian dance with Japanese Bhuddism and martial arts but in a very modem way. The two cultures are very different like plus and minus. lndia is very open and vibrant. Japan is subdued and quite introverted. They‘re opposite, but complementary like fire and ice.‘

And what ofthe clingfilm, the Karma Sutra. the exotic and mystique? ‘Ancient lndia.‘ Shakti reminds me. ‘was highly erotic before the arrival of the British Raj. Dance in India originated in the Hindu temples it was a temple art. We're trying to bring that back.‘ And ironically as she fights to bring temple dance back to its native home, it is entering Japan's Buddhist Temples for the first time, with her help. ‘The body is the temple of God.‘ she proclaims. ‘Without eroticism. spirituality is dead.‘ Evidently the chilled out Bhuddist monks are on that self-same essential vibe.

I Eros of love and Destruction

(Fringe) Shakti and the Vasantamala Dance Troupe, Festival Club (Venue 36) 21—27 Aug. 6.30pm. £5 (£4.50).

' The Well of the Saints

In an unspecified time, a middle-aged blind couple earn their living by begging from villagers who have led them to believe that they are beautiful. Along comes a fanatical saint, whose restoration of their sight causes them a lifetime’s grief. They lose their sight, and shun the saint’s offer of another cure, preferring instead the reality of their own imaginations.

So runs the simple plotline of J.M. Synge’s first full-length play, whose debut caused an uproar in 1905 at Ireland’s national theatre, the Abbey. ‘It was perceived as very anti-clerical and anti-Christian, because it pits the spirituality of the individual against organised orthodoxy,’ explains Patrick Meson, artistic director of the Abbey Theatre and director of this production.

Multi-layered in its complexity, the play is not only a folk tale, a village comedy of errors and a religious parable, but also a morality play with laughs, albeit wickedly twisted in parts. Despite his main characters shying away from the awful truth, Synge paints a very authentic, and at

.oti.v,l‘.' \ .‘ ~. , , me it loud: mddy must: in The Well of the saints

times bleak, picture. ‘Synge wasn’t under many illusions. I think what he was saying was that if there’s any hope, it lies in tolerance of individual imagination.’ Mason most admires Synge’s honesty. ‘He tells the truth about humanity and humans. You can accept it or reject it, and at the same time have a good time in the theatre.’ Staging ‘the truth’ is no mean feat. 0n the set, described as a ‘siice of Wicklow in the rain,’ the actors get covered in mud, in between the odd

fist-fight. All of which pales in comparison to the difficulty of handling Synge’s exquisite, but heightened lyricism. ‘There’s a balance to be found between form and content,’ explains Mason, ‘like Shakespeare.’ When can we expect the mud-wrestling Merry Wives of Windsor? (Gabe Stewart)

The Well of the Saints (Festival) Abbey Theatre Company, King’s Theatre, 225 5756, 24-28 Aug, 7.30pm; 27, 28 Aug, 2.30pm, £6-218.


Mark Fisher gives five good reasons to cut short your afternoon nap. .. $4


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I The Winter’s Tale Up and coming French director Stephane Braunschweig has just taken over the National Drama Centre in Orleans and his production of Shakespeare's romance. reworked as Le Conte d'Hii'er. should explain why.

The Winter's Tale ( Festival) Centre Dramatique National 0r!eans-I.oiret- Centre/Theatre Machine. Royal Lyceum Theatre. 225 5756. 23—25 Aug. £6—i‘li‘s’. I The Publicity Stunt Arthur Smith aims to re-create the surreal brilliance of l992's Arthur Smith Sings Andy Williams (the one where you could get your money back if you left before the show began) with a fifteen-minute show that will do no harm at all to his public profile.

The Publicity Stunt by Arthur Smith (Fringe) Pleasance (Venue 33) 556 6550. 21—29Aug. 6pm. £1.50 (fl).

I Merlin Arthurian legend meets arcane Catholic ritual meets post- communist Poland. as Wierszalin turns up with another feast of puppetry. story-telling and music.

Merlin (Fringe) Wierszalin (Poland). Theatre Workshop (Venue 20) 226 5425, until 3 Sept (not Suns), 7.30pm. £7.50 (£4).

I Tokyo Shock Boys If you like your entertainment unpleasant or downright perverse, if you did Jim Rose last year and Archaos before that. then Japan's latest contribution to international peace and understanding will no doubt be to your undigested taste.

Tokyo Shoek Boys (Fringe) Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428. until 3 Sept. 6pm. [7.50/[850 (f6.5()/£7.50). I Phil Kay Lovable lunacy from loopy young Phil who freewheels his way through a different hair-twisting set every evening.

Phil Kay (Fringe) Gilded Balloon ' (Venue 38) 226 2/51. until 3 Aug (not i 22). 7pm (8pm). £6 (£5). J

The List 19—25 August 1994 37