31.05.2010 – Andrew Johnson in Daily Info, Oxford
John Moran And Saori… in Thailand
John Moran has the incredible gift of finding beauty in everyday occurrences. Short portraits of people and events in his life are set to a rhythm with such tenderness and care that they reveal a profundity the rest of us mere mortals would probably have missed. When first considered, this sounds like a blessing – but dark hints in this work suggest that it’s often more of a curse. It’s certainly easy to believe there is something psychologically dangerous in this pursuit. Still, the fruits of his labour form a touring production which is truly magical and which fulfil that most special of theatrical traits: explaining something splendid that could never have been described with words alone.
Instead, Moran composes – and as the successful protégé of Philip Glass, you can be sure he is among the best around. A myriad different sounds are used to reconstruct every event – moving a chair, standing up – in minute detail. To this rhythm he and his partner, Saori, move with choreographed precision to physically describe a sequence of events in a moving tableau. Often the sequence will be looped, replaying identically or with subtle differences, to reinforce the emotion drawn from the audience. It is variably uplifting and crushing, wonderfully optimistic and then utterly mundane – but always totally honest and all the more revealing for it.
As the title of the show suggests the events are taken from Moran’s recent time in Thailand, including elegant portraits of him suffering culture shock in the vastness of Bangkok and his friendship with a Thai Lady Boy. The portraits have a particularly timely poignancy given the current political situation in Thailand. Indeed, one of the strongest passages in the show contrasts the purity of Buddhist values with the crass commercialisation of Christmas in an upmarket shopping centre, not unlike the one the Red Shirts burnt down.
This sort of theatre is unique to John Moran and really must be seen to be properly understood. If you like your theatre to have meaning then you really should make an effort to see this. The other stops on the tour which are reachable from Oxford include The Tobacco Factory, Bristol and The Nightingale Theatre, Brighton.