Mutating Roots Review by Tisara Pathiranage

***** stars

Mutating Roots is a one-woman dance theatre and aerial art exhibition that will both unsettle and amuse you. Mayu Muto, a gifted young Japanese-Australian theatrical artist, enthrals an intimate audience for a limited season at the Melba Spiegeltent. Mutating Roots comes to Melbourne following periodic seasons throughout Brisbane and Adelaide over 2019.

Mutating Roots challenges the audience’s ideas and experiences of Asians in Australia and the Japanese culture. As an Asian born and raised in Australia, it was easy to see the relevance of the cross-cultural confusion she brilliantly portrayed through her physical art, from both the perspectives of western stereotyping and Asian pre-conceptions experienced as an Asian Australian.

Muto enigmatically represents the stereotypes that Australians often find themselves pondering when they think of Japanese culture and Japanese Australians, using a large toolbox of slapstick comedy, non-naturalism, aerial acrobatics, spoken word, dance and mime. Muto entertains with faultless dance technique, outstanding aerial acrobatics and poignant acting.

The setting of the Melba Spiegeltent perfectly compliments this haunting performance by Muto. The darkness of the understated circus tent combined with the timely smoke effects throughout the show created the ambivalent tone of the show. The lighting and sound direction is flawless and carefully selected. Muto’s simplistic costume choice does not distract in any way from the heartfelt and passionate scripting and mini performances. The use of props shows exceptional creativity. The running time of the show, at under an hour, is astoundingly appropriate for delivering her contention. Overall, Mutating Roots was deeply impressive and engaging in it’s artistic choices.

As a one-woman show, Muto commanded the stage with poise and ultra professionalism, showcasing all her talents with breathtaking confidence, physical strength and agility. Being Muto’s first full-length circus performance, and she has set the bar high for herself. She showed light and shade in her performances, seamlessly segueing through small monologues into astronomically impressive aerial sequences, clean contemporary dance combinations and comedic musical theatre-esque numbers. She held the audience captivated from the start to the finale, leaving many of us disappointed when it was realised that it was the final notes of the show. Her raw monologues communicated frank honesty that had the audience on side with her from the very beginning. Most captivatingly, Muto spoke courageously from her true cultural identity. Muto is a pivotal and powerful voice of the underrepresented Asian-Australian community in the Australian entertainment industry. Mutating Roots for those who are wiling to open their mind and light-heartedly engage their conscience with the preconceptions towards Asian cultures within our society.

Performances: 5

Costumes: 5

Sets: 5

Lighting: 5

Sound: 5

Direction: 5

Choreography: 5

Stage Management: 5