28 August 2001, Andrew Clements, The Guardian
Review (en)


Rating *****

If the release of the Beach Boys' 1966 album Pet Sounds was one of the seismic events of your musical youth, and if you think that God Only Knows is still the greatest pop song ever written, then Heiner Goebbels's new theatre piece will be 80 minutes of pure, unadulterated delight. For those without direct access to that particular bag of nostalgia, it must still represent a quite remarkable achievement. Hashirigaki is a fusion of extraordinarily diverse cultural elements - the Beach Boys' songs, Japanese folk music and Gertrude Stein's mammoth novel The Making of Americans - brought together with Goebbels's characteristic alchemy. The whole thing is presented by three women who act, sing, dance and play in a ravishing visual setting that holds the audience enchanted from the first surreal image to the last. The piece was brought to Edinburgh for just two performances by Th�tre Vidy-Lausanne, which presented the world premiere last year. The Japanese title is elusive - with connotations of running, rushing and writing fluently, it's the first word of a famous kabuki drama, and seems to encapsulate the way in which Goebbels makes his allusive mix cohere. His starting point was not, in fact, Pet Sounds itself, but a set of CDs that emerged more recently, detailing the sessions and out-takes that went into the making of the classic LP. The unearthly singing of the Beach Boys is never heard in Hashirigaki, but the backing tracks haunt the sculpted soundscape, in which the theremin, an early electronic instrument used on Pet Sounds and then immortalised by the same band on Good Vibrations, plays an important role. The yearning opening of God Only Knows launches a series of Stein's typically opaque fables, delivered with wonderful deadpan seriousness; Don't Talk becomes a song-and-dance number as the women don outrageous wigs and turn themselves into a Ronettes-style trio; I Just Wasn't Made For These Times is the essence of the lingering, intensely poetic epilogue. The Japanese folk numbers provide the cool counterweight but, as remarkable koto player Yumiko Tanaka shows, that soundworld can metamorphose into a fine replica of bluegrass music in an instance. Cultural boundaries - between east and west, popular culture and high art - are dissolved. Everything becomes part of a unique dramatic world, in which the array of arresting gestures and movements - akin to Robert Wilson's theatre, but with gentle, affectionate wit replacing his tendentiousness - knits everything together. The three performers (Tanaka, Swedish singer and dancer Charlotte Engelkes and Canadian pianist Marie Goyette) are extraordinary in their versatility and poise, and have been signed up to bring the show to London's Barbican before too long. Book as soon as the dates are announced, because Hashirigaki is an unclassifiable, unforgettable experience - the stuff that masterpieces are made of. King's Theatre

on: Hashirigaki (Music Theatre)