I couldn’t stop laughing as an awkward, oh-so-British audience member was filmed self-consciously shouting ‘yeah!’, his tentative fist pumping the air, which was then re-played on a loop on stage to punctuate Pharrell William’s ‘Happy’.
This was just one of the many imaginative delights that came from Siro-A’s funny and inventive stage show. Hailed as Japan’s answer to the Blue Man Group, the six men combine music and digital projections (some shot live) with mime, dance and movement, interacting in unique ways to humorous and mesmerising effect.
The comedy is visual, and has the feel of the old silent movies – with big facial expressions – but transported bang-up-to-date with digital projections and modern references. A little bit slapstick, it relies on surprises and delivers laugh-out-loud moments in spades. The four main performers are high-energy, charming and likeable, dressed strikingly in mime black and white, and both comedic and athletic. It’s a family show, and so the humour is gentle and universal.
The show is fast-paced and packs a lot into the 60 minutes – it will feel a lot longer without dragging. The tone changes a few times from clever and funny sequences with high-energy electronic beats to sequences that are mesmerising and beautiful, full of bright colours, shapes, dance and softer tunes –think OK GO’s WTF video but more emotional.
It pokes fun at its own Japanese roots, jamming in a cavalcade of tongue-in-cheek Japanese stereotypes, whilst catering to the Western English-speaking audience – and even giving a few little nods to its temporary London home.
Although at times I was aware I was watching a show partly aimed at children – with clownish antics and very simple concepts – the show also pitches well to adults, with grown-up references – including a fantastically comical series of film parodies such as Rambo and the Exorcist!
Those partial to retro-gaming nostalgia may get the most from this show, as various video game references like Super Mario Brothers (circa 1980s) are thrown in liberally. One major theme of this show is video game tropes: exploring both the living-the-dream fantasy of being the hero inside a video game (where is our long-promised virtual reality anyways?) and a PG-dark exploration of being trapped inside a game and controlled by a sinister player.
The show as a whole explores the interaction between the virtual and the real. It shows what visual magic and trickery can be done by creatively combining digital projections with live antics – the performers even interact with digitalised projections of themselves. They also take audience participation to a whole new level by turning the cameras on the audience, shooting clips of them live and in minutes combining them into clever little music videos (as described in the intro).
However this is not a show that requires you to think all that hard, but rather one that lets you sit back and be pleasantly entertained and amused. Despite a couple of dodgy moments where it felt like a bad 80’s laser show combined with a cheesy boy band line up, it’s a fantastic experience overall, full of laugh-out-loud surprises and mesmerising visuals. It’s definitely worth seeing – if only because it’ll be unlike anything you might have seen before.
Siro-A are playing at Leicester Square Theatre until 11 January 2015
Words by Catriona Kinney