Hyper-real or Hyperplastic?

Eroticisation of Exotic Pop-Culture in Toco Nikaido’s
“Extreme Voices” (Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker)

Last night I assaulted by a total sensory onslaught of cartoonesque excess. But I walked out smiling. It was a loud, wet and ‘in-your-face’ lip-synced all-you-can-eat buffet of dance, costume changes, confetti, masks and glow-sticks. And I was captivated from beginning to end.

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The show includes over 20 performers crammed on stage bombarding the audience with high-energy non-stop, carefully choreographed visual, auditory and tactile chaos with no respite. Everything is overkill: from the colourful costumes to the literally thousands of props to the music to the flying tofu. Yes, that’s right – flying tofu… and water to wet your appetite. Of course the audience was given raincoats and earplugs to protect their tactile sensibilities, but had no choice when it came to the visual flash-mob of plastic ‘kitsch-pop-porn’.

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By ‘kitsch-pop-porn’ I am referring to the show’s style, which crudely blends popular styles of dance, karaoke and anime with hyper-realism and spectacle to reflect the gratuitous vulgarisation of contemporary (Japanese) pop-culture. This is depicted as a fast-paced, techno-plastic consumer culture, which fetishizes the liminal nature of sensory stimulus and instant visual gratification through garish fashion, social-media and fast-evolving technology. Everything is infantilized with immature playfulness, demonstrative gesture, tacky costumes and gimmicks that only need to hold the audience’s attention for a couple of seconds before the next stimulus snatches their focus. Everything is so completely fake and deliberately manufactured for cheap thrills that barrage the show from start to finish. And despite being acutely aware of this, I couldn’t help myself being totally enthralled with child-like excitement. After the show, the audience exits through a tunnel of cheering performers and we got the feeling it was us that had just been on stage. Well, the truth is we had been, sort of… Like many others I left feeling simultaneously stunned and energized but also somewhat dazed and confused.

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I assumed the show was not simply a spectacle but rather loaded with irony and actually a critique of contemporary pop-culture. However, despite the show revealing a fetishisation of insatiable carnal consumerism, it also highlighted deeper social issues, which I found potentially problematic. Namely: the erotification of the exotic and the sexualisation of infantile/jeuvenile behaviour. The former did not concern me so much as it seemed to work both ways – from an eastern audience perspective, the western culture is eroticized by the single bodacious white blonde female ‘plastic’ stereotype who leads the chorus throughout the show. From a western perspective the exoticism of the east seems to be enough to catch the eye.

This latter however, is potentially more problematic when it is combined with a pop-culture which fashions itself on puerile child-like behaviour, clothing, and character. Although this may be normalized as mundane sub-culture in Japan, this becomes potentially problematic when witnessed by a western audience in that it runs the risk of eroticizing and sexualizing child-like behaviour. Two topics then spring to mind: sex-trafficking and child-pornography. But that takes everything to a whole new level, which I can assure you is not overtly evident and most likely not intended. Perhaps I’ve simply overthought this way too much and scratching a spot where there isn’t an itch.

I’d be interested to hear other people’s perspectives though. So go watch the show and let me know. It’s great fun for the whole family and you won’t be disappointed.

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EXTREME VOICES
Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker
Concept, Director, Music: Toco Nikaido
9 + 10 June 2016, Festival Theaterformen

Photos and video by Richard Antrobus.

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