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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: September 11, 2008 @ 10:27 am

    Saori’s Birthday

    Fiona McCann

    When John Moran rolls a show into town, you feel kind of culturally compelled to check it out.

    One-time protégée of Philip Glass, this American composer has worked with the likes of Uma Thurman and Iggy Pop over the years (ha! you don’t often get to lump those two together), but seems to have found a whole new muse in the astoundingly precise movements of dancer Saori Tsukada. Yep, she’s the Saori of this show’s birthday fame, and her interpretation of his layered, at times head-explodingly repititous soundtrack is close to flawless.

    So what’s it all about? You know, the fulitity of human existence, pain, abandoment, that sort of stuff. Never been done before, right? OK, but maybe it’s never been done quite like this. Leave all expectations of a coherent narrative at the door, and don’t go if you’re feeling fragile, and especially not if it’s your birthday, because this ain’t the kind of party where they serve you rice-krispie buns and play pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. Otherwise, see it, hear it, tell me what you think.

    • JC says:

      I suppose a Fringe Fest needs to some totally dense and unpleasant work in order to keep its fringe cred burnished, but I can’t see how Saori’s birthday is worth the time it takes to watch it – much less produce it. In the nether reaches of the performance art world, opacity is so often mistaken for profundity; weirdness for artistic merit. So it is with this show. It’s not that abstract or nonsensical or simple ideas don’t have merit (they do! they do!) but the Artist is supposed to cook them down into something that makes more sense than what I saw last night. Her interpretation is flawless? Well, I suppose it is. Or: lip-synch to a soundtrack of creepy, amplified, inhuman voices from wind-up toys and baby dolls; throw in some dry ice and a gigantic baby, and then, for good measure, have the Macintosh computer voice say things like, “Life…is…pain.” Tada…flawless.

    • John Moran says:

      Sadly, it was mostly closed minded country-bumpkins the likes of which left such a comment before, who we met this year in Dublin. It’s funny how different cultures react, and on different years. 2 years ago, all I had to do was kiss a little butt over the microphone, about Irish ancestry and such, and we got fan mail for years after. Just shows how threatened and gullible folks like him really are, ha See you again :) – JM

    • Layla says:

      I read JC’s comment on Saori’s Birthday and I felt so strongly about it I’ve been drawn to post my first ever blog comment! So here is my tu’ppence worth.

      The score which Saori performed to was a moving, hypnotising, enthralling work of art. The images Saori created to John’s score (along with the other actors) were haunting and eerily evocative. The piece made sense to me – I was carried away on a piece of music built and broken down and rebuilt in a skilled, tender and, to me, entirely open manner. Strange? yes Eerie? yes Unpleasant? absolutely not. A show that stayed with me for days after, its sounds and images popping up for another viewing.

      There is a difference between not understanding something or it not appealing to you and referring to a show as weird and lacking artistic merit. There was a huge amount of thought and creative energy put in to this piece and whether or not you liked it, it is not worthy of the rant above.

    • JC says:

      Let’s see: point by point. I’m sorry that Mr. Moran has run into all those “closed-minded country-bumpkins” here in Dublin. If ingratiating himself with the audience via race worked so well for him the last time he was here, I suggest he stick with that. It is ironic, though, that he answered my criticism in the rather base way he did, as the Irish friends with whom I saw Saori’s Birthday loved it. But one man’s meat is another man’s poison, right? I was born and raised in Manhattan, strollered through P.S. 1, plunked in front of Twyla Tharp at age 12, & cetera, and I found the show dense and tedious. Mr. Moran should be more careful slamming his audiences: on the internet, no one knows you’re American.

      And I mean, come on – the Macintosh voice? It was used very well by Air, on Moon Safari, but that was in 1998, and they’re French.

      As to whether I am threatened by work such as this…well, um, I’m not. And gullible? I can only suggest Mr. Moran use some of his grant money to buy a dictionary. (Also a style manual – he needs to brush up on his relative pronouns.) By what, exactly, is he suggesting I was gulled? His work?

    • John Moran says:

      I just find you rather stupid, sir…that’s all.
      For example, when you wrote ‘the computer says ‘life is pain’.
      The computer actually said:
      Death pulls strings of chilling wind, across the flesh of youth.
      To hold and slow what once was limber limb; and finally slowed
      to stopping. Embracing them.”

      That’s actually a rather different statement than your silly re-phrasing. By threatened, I simply meant that you seem like a bitter fool. Take care :)

    • Luke says:

      I saw John Moran’s show 2 years ago and there were parts ot it that were great, but I felt it didn’t reach its full potential (although in fairness there were technical problems the night I saw it).
      For this production, I was expecting to see a similar show, with John in the corner strumming his guitar, but this was totally different. And to be honest, while I couldn’t explain it all to you,& I’m sure some of it went over my head, I loved the images, Saori’s movements, the repetition,the voiceover, the gradual descent into eeriness and horror. It brought to mind Stanley Kubrick ( but I’m not sure why).
      I think John Moran’s stuff is always going to be a little weird, and if you’re going to be weird, this is the way to go. IMO, this fantasy type show was far superior to his more personal one
      from a couple of years ago, I’m just waiting for that fat doll to pop up in one of my dreams going “Dad?”

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