Siro-A is going where no Japanese performing artists have gone before, as the all-action troupe this month launched into not its first, or second — but its third three-month West End run since its “Technodelic Visual Show” in 2013.
With a name derived from shiroi, the Japanese word for “white” or “colorless,” combined with an “A” representing “anonymous,” the company tries to avoid creating any preconceptions of its shows’ high-tech, all-action melange of mime, dance and optical wizardry backed by thrilling electro sounds.
“Since I and the other four original members, from the same high school in Sendai (Miyagi Prefecture), started Siro-A in 2002, we’ve always tried to create performances like nothing seen before,” its 35-year-old director, Cocoona, told this writer in a recent Tokyo interview.
Pointing out that Siro-A members always use pseudonyms in public, he explained that, because their six-man non-verbal shows “mix people with lighting effects, projected images and techno music,” the troupe has never felt a need to stay in Japan when it could equally well target the international show-business market. “But as it is a part of our world market, we’ll be playing Japan early next year,” he said.
Explaining how the troupe grew from a group of friends performing for fun in 2002 with no thoughts of making a living from their shows, let alone going global, Cocoona — who was on stage in those days — recalled how an early fan, the renowned artist Shozo Shimamoto, invited them to the Venice Biennale in 2005 — where they won the Bronze Award at that top contemporary-art event.
Despite that, they remain virtually unknown in Japan — even after also being runners-up in a 30th-anniversary competition run by the major entertainment company Amuse in 2008. Since then, with Amuse’s backing, Siro-A has taken off worldwide and has toured Europe, North America and Asia.
In fact they are in such demand that a second, parallel Siro-A has been formed to extend their global reach along similar lines to the U.S. nonverbal performance troupe Blue Man Group.
Commenting on this exciting evolution, Cocoona said, “Our first West End run from February 2013 was a kind of ‘best of ‘ show, then for the next one that summer we added some new elements. This time, in our show titled ‘Siro-A,’ we’ve updated the content to combine our cool, robotic style with some more low-tech audience interactions.”
In particular, he explained, “In Europe we at first purposely displayed a Japanese techno-pop image in our costumes and kinetics, and were regarded as very cutting-edge. But we realized we had to appeal to people of all ages — not just edgy youth and techno fans.
“Also, through being in London I’ve learned a lot about what English people really like — especially as audience members and staff talk quite frankly with us in the theater’s bar and tell us which parts of the show they like, or dislike. I enjoy all that, as Western audiences show their feelings much more openly than Japanese ones.
“As a result, we’ve added scenes with performers telling jokes in simple English and interacting with audience members. And we take pictures in the foyer and then project them in the show to involve people more.”
In addition, Cocoona said people online can now join in by going to a link on Siro-A’s Facebook page labeled “Do you wanna be a Siro-A?” There, he said, “You might find yourself appearing in a version of the famous ‘Barcode Man’ routine, with your photo that we took in the theater incorporated into the performance.”
Meanwhile, on a more down-to-earth level, he insisted, “I definitely want to make it easy for audience members everywhere to take drinks to their seats like in London. It helps create a great atmosphere, so when we come to Japan I hope to see that happening.”