“Memorandum,” the inaugural presentation of Redcat (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater) inside Walt Disney Concert Hall, unleashes a non-stop assault on the senses, combining mind-bending visuals, thunderous music, racing bodies and strobe lights. Enacted by Japanese multimedia performance troupe “dumb type” (the dumb refers to lack of verbal language and a willingness to be idiots rebelling against pretentious high art), it’s an imaginative head trip that illustrates the cacaphonous, punishing danger of sensory overload. Not all the effects and ideas work, and some of the key concepts blur under bombardment of booms, blasts, beeps and buzzes, but the show offers an unusual and provocative experience for open-minded theatergoers.
One of the evening’s best visuals is the opening sight of dumb type performers scaling a wall of words that will evolve into the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Before you know it, there are people in bear suits, adding the evening’s funniest touches. Suddenly a man is sketching a room with his writing projected by video onto a screen. The important thing is to go with the flow, resisting any desire to force ideas into a linear, cohesive pattern. This is particularly vital when troupe members tear across the stage, superimposed against a battery of contrasting pictures that reflect our increasingly loud, discordant environment.
Subway trains, ocean waves, motorcycles and cars close in, alternating with the white noise of a TV set no longer broadcasting. It’s a relief when Nat Cole’s “Unforgettable” is played, an effective reminder that the world was a much mellower place before massive technological takeover.
Movements of the actors require them to reach up frequently to the sky, as though pleading for an escape from the relentless stimulation. Some of the choreography is repetitive, but much of it is energetic and exciting. Synchronization skill is admirably demonstrated when four men and one woman execute a postmodern hula dance.
The electronic music is set at a high level, but sound creator Ryoji Ikeda and sound engineer Yoshihisa Fukuhara balance it just enough to jar the system without shattering more sensitive eardrums. Yasuhisa Toyota — responsible for the sound in Disney Hall — also designed Redcat’s excellent acoustics.
Redcat plans to produce radical, cutting-edge alternatives to the larger Disney Hall programming; “Memorandum” is a promising example of the new theater’s experimental approach.