Japanese physical theatre company bringing innovative performance to the South West thanks to University invitation

A Japanese theatre company renowned for its highly physical form of mime is to bring its acclaimed art to the South West for the first time thanks to an invitation from the University of Exeter.

Academics in the Department of Communications, Drama and Film took the initiative to contact Osaka-based company tarinainanika – famed for its mastery of ‘corporeal mime’ – to see if there might be an opportunity to collaborate on a project.

The result is that not only will tarinainanika host a workshop and research seminar on the University’s Streatham campus but it will also bring its new production Rey Camoy to the Exeter Northcott Theatre next month as part of its new UK tour.

The production tells the story of Japanese painter Camoy (1928-1985), famed for his pictures of drunks, clowns and ‘lost souls’ that captured states of mind through the human form.

“It is very exciting that tarinainanika have agreed to come and perform their latest work in Exeter,” says Senior Lecturer Dr Bryan Brown. “They are world class cultural ambassadors and the city and the University will both benefit from this cultural exchange.

“Besides their captivating performance, members of the company are also going to offer a fascinating insight into the nature of their art and how they run their business, which will be an excellent learning opportunity for our students and demonstrates the department’s commitment to embodied and intercultural performance practice. This is a great example of how the University can draw upon its contacts and reputation in art and culture to create added value for the community and its partners.”

The idea to approach the company emerged following an event in support of Ukraine at the Maketank cultural laboratory in the city, which Dr Brown founded with partner and fellow lecturer, Olya Petrakova. This resulted in an Exeter colleague introducing the pair to co-director Tania Coke with the aim to create a collaboration and a performance at Maketank. But as plans progressed, Dr Brown realised that a public event at a venue on the scale of the Northcott would be a better way forward and approached the theatre with his ideas.

The result is a production set for Tuesday 10 October in the 450-seat arena and a workshop for both undergraduate and postgraduate students on corporeal mime, with a research seminar for all academics and students looking at how the company works, the way in which they took Camoy’s paintings as inspiration and how they put them on the stage.

Ralph Whitehead, Press and Media Officer at Exeter Northcott Theatre, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to welcome tarinainanika to the Northcott this October. Their production, Rey Camoy, is a unique and immersive experience, exploring how we connect and relate to each other through physical language. This collaboration with the University of Exeter underscores our commitment to enrich culture in our local community by creating new opportunities for cultural exchange and bringing outstanding international performers to the South West.”

Coke and tarinainanika Co-Director Kentaro Suyama trained in the UK, where they learned the repertoire, vocabulary, teaching methods and creative processes of corporeal mime. They then moved to Japan in 2010 and set up the company, which is now based in the Flying Carpet Factory, an old carpet warehouse in Osaka.

Recognised as an independent artform, corporeal mime was created by French actor Etienne Decroux during the 20th century. It moved away from more traditional forms of acting through its emphasis on the creativity of the actor and the expressive power of the actor’s body, especially the spine.

Rey Camoy is part of the Theatre’s free U26 membership scheme, in which people under the age of 26 (including Exeter students) can obtain discounted £5 and £10 tickets for a wide range of Northcott events. More information about the U26 membership scheme is on the theatre’s website.