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Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker (LIFT Festival, Barbican Centre, London): Review

Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker Glitter bombshell. Scene from 'Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker'. Photograph: Courtesy of Cyclone A.

Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker is a hyper-apocalypse for the digitally disenfranchised. The party at the edge of reason you don’t want to miss.

Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker !!!! !! !! ! !!!!!! !! !! !!! !!, !!!!! !!! !!!!!!! !!! !!!!: !!!!! !!!! !!!.

Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker

Cheer leader. Scene from ‘Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker’. Photograph: Courtesy of Cyclone A.

Concept

Where the heck do I start with Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker? It’s a show where all hell breaks lose in hyper-kawaii style. The audience is blasted with sound, lights, water, spit, seaweed, leeks, and god knows what else. It’s a snapshot of Japanese youth culture amplified by over 9000: every photosensitive epileptics worst nightmare, carrying so much volume you’re literally supplied with ear plugs for health and safety reasons. It’s easy to think that there’s little underneath the glaring, flashing colours and the deafening electro-rock music, or behind the umpteen projectiles hurled at your face, but you’d be wrong.

Regardless of the fact that the show is mainly in Japanese, it’s at first difficult to make any sense of Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker, mainly because its simply impossible to take everything in because there’s so much crazy confined to this cramped light-box that your attention darts from one thing to another so much that you’re left breathless and dizzy. But once you catch up with Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker’s energy you start to notice an unyielding terror beneath the bright smiles and the synchronised dancing. This is a youth subculture that through all the grinning and peace signs are deeply despairing and disenfranchised. Parts of the show start to bring out themes of social isolation and political disempowerment, and a constant sense of doom amid the frantic hedonism, especially when the super-cute visuals are juxtaposed with nightmarish imagery and traditional Japanese lore. There’s an immense sense of irony and sardonism too, especially from renditions of several well known songs from musical theatre shows. This isn’t some feckless party, Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker is a snarling, biting, yelling cacophony of hypertense culture and technicolor nihilism. At the literal screaming depths of it all is the sense of ironic tragedy: the escape of this digital, brightly coloured, and loud electronic utopia is also what feeds into the cataclysmic frustrations that Japanese youth are experiencing.

Whilst there is no narrative as such, Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker is primarily about pummeling you with an experience and blinding you with flashes of a fundamentally troubled youth despite its superficial hyperactivity. It gives you a wild theatrical experience like nothing else that has come before or will possibly come again. It’s like going nose to nose with a bazooka filled with glitter and ticker-tape and fired at point blank range: completely annihilating, but one hell of a way to go. If there’s any criticism, it’s that 40 minutes is just not long enough: it’s all over far too quickly. But then again, I don’t think anyone’s eardrums, eye-sockets, and wardrobes could take such a beating for any much longer without disintegrating completely.

Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker

A revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having. Scene from ‘Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker. Photograph: Courtesy of Cyclone A.

Direction & Production

Just like the concept itself, there is so much going on to really get to grips with everything. Akimi Miyamoto’s video designs wash the stage: they’re cute, scary, and completely discombobulating and an integral a part of Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker’s clusterfuck aesthetic. They’re cartoony and high quality visuals that are the backbone of the show. Unagi’s lighting goes beyond colours convulsing from the rigs, but also incessantly lights up performers with fairy lights, or uses glow-sticks and torches in routines too to further confuse and dazzle you. The show itself is also meticulously planned and organised to ensure no part of its sprawling production goes wrong. There are apparently around 2000 props used for each performance, everything from cardboard signs, samurai swords, Matrushka dolls, leeks, buckets of seaweed and water, and so so so much ticker-tape falling from the ceiling. It’s a feat of production in itself, so much so that stage manager Keita Iseki deserves an extraordinary mention.

As for direction, creator and director Toco Nikaido is pretty much the embodiment of Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker itself: an intense ball of energy on the cusp of constantly exploding, driving an atomic energy that puts Cern to shame. There is nowhere to escape Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker and Nikaido makes sure of that. You are part of the show whether you like it or not. You will be clambered over, have people fake-snogging in your face, and people spitting and throwing water over you along with a plethora of other paraphernalia.

Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker

Glowing success. Scene from ‘Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker’. Photograph: Courtesy of Cyclone A.

Performance

Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker has 25 fantastic performers. There must be something in the miso because I cannot think how else they can all have so much energy that continues beyond the actual show: afterwards you have to pass through a cheering gauntlet of all of them on your way out. But even though the stage looks chaotic, the ability and clockwork workings of the cast are impeccable and phenomenal. They really do make Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker looks and feel supernovic; dancing and moving in perfect unison, and spilling their madness into and onto the audience with an all encompassing intoxicating glee and charisma. They cannonball an absolutely unforgettable octane and experience from start to finish without flinching or faulting.

Verdict

“Sound and fury” doesn’t even start to cut it when describing Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker. This isn’t a show that merely yells into the void, it parties hard whilst nosediving head-first into it. You’d be more insane than the show itself to miss this!

Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker plays as part of the LIFT Festival at the Barbican Centre, London, EC2Y 8DS, until 2 July 2016. Tickets are £18 (concessions available). To book, visit www.liftfestival.com.
This review was made possible by Theatre Bloggers. For more information about the group, please visit theatrebloggers.co.uk.