Formed in 1993, Yamato has performed shows every year, in 54 countries and carried out nine world tours. That should give an idea of their universal appeal and high standard of musicianship.
For this show, the ten strong troupe performed a number of pieces, almost non stop, on the theme of passion. There were small drums, medium sized drums, large drums and couple of ginormous ones. There were wind instruments, other percussion, some singing, some strings, and did I mention the drums?
Opening to a smoke-filled stage, the first half had an almost mystical theme, the drums accompanied by flute and some singing. Loosely flowing colourful costumes complemented the mood, along with some dance movements with paper lanterns. The second half had a more raw feeling about it, signalled by the costume change to ‘Yamato’ jeans and industrial strength boots.
With very little time in between to receive applause, the set pieces exuded an infectious energy. The seamless mix of tempo and rhythms sometimes building to a crescendo and wall of sound, at other times letting us down gently. It was not quite as relentless as you may think though. The big numbers were interspersed with smaller scale, light hearted pieces. For example, there was a variation on the Morecombe and Wise paper bag joke, with the performers using small cymbals to ‘throw’ the noise around. The skit where the drums kept getting larger and louder amused me, but probably for the wrong reason.
The sheer physicality was also pretty impressive. Obviously it is hard work bashing huge great drums for two hours, but on top of that they managed to dance, spin and move around, always keeping in time. At one point, some of the performers were even doing sit ups over a raised platform whilst drumming. One chap did knock over one of the paper lanterns though, which was fine actually, as it showed that they are human after all.
Excellent interaction with the audience got everyone joining in, even managing to get audience clapping to keep in time – a first in my experience. The jokes were clever, being reliant on actions and facial expressions, but they were a little bit cheesy. Very effective lighting provided dramatic punctuations and enhanced the atmosphere. There was a little bit of feedback from the speakers during the very limited time they appeared to be needed, but this was probably just a technical first night glitch.
I don’t think they could possibly have fit any more drums on the stage for the finale, which capped an energetic and joyful show, resulting in a standing ovation.
Artistic Director (including composition, choreography and theatrical design): Masa Ogawa
Produced by: Masa Ogawa in co-operation with Asuka-mura and Nara prefecture
Box Office: 02078638000
Booking Link: http://peacocktheatre.com/whats-on/yamato/
Booking Until: 31 March 2019