White Day Dream by Butoh and cabaret artist Yumi Umiumare, in collaboration with Weave Movement Theatre, is a descent into the bizarre, grotesque and surreal. Involving physical theatre, butoh, dance and text, White Day Dream captures the unnerving, lost feeling of being sunk too deeply into a dream, with no real way to get back.
It is not an easy show to describe, with the performers – both with and without disabilities – slipping in and out of characters and scenes, varying from abstract depictions of emotions using plastic bags, to a Mad Hatter-esque dinner party. This is a show to surrender to rather than decode; best to let the images wash over you rather than intellectualise them.
The downside to this surrealist style is that it becomes difficult for the audience to decipher what the point of the piece is – if there even is one. With the combination of performers with and without disabilities, the body and its many forms becomes a centralised idea whether intended or not. To me, the imagery on the stage seemed to combine mostly into an exploration of life and mortality – how do we deal with the excruciating knowledge that our time on this earth is fleeting, and what happens when we surrender to the absurdity of that notion?
The lack of clarity would not be a problem if White Day Dream had have been half the length, or been performed by more skilled performers. While the cast show plenty of promise, it felt as though there was a lack of connection between them and the work, leaving a slightly hollow feeling to the whole thing. The visual poetry is indeed striking, but one gets the feeling that the performers are not fully imbued with the meaning behind that which they are performing.
Composition by Dan West is the highlight of the piece, with a range of musical styles and tones that slip from one to another with ease and grace. It is the music that fills out this dreamscape and gives it its depth; often it is just as full of clues as the performers or video projections.
Stage and costume design by Jennifer Tran equally elevates the performances and completes the dreamscape. Costumes work to create thematic links between scenes and characters, and the set design immerses the audience into a strangely beautiful world.
White Day Dream is ambitious and brave. While the technique of the performers and clarity of the piece of the whole could do with some improvement, there is much to be discovered and enjoyed if you simply sink yourself into the world created for you