Hidden away backstage in the rigid arched-iron structure of Art Complex 1928 are four eccentric humanoid robots and a curious life-sized doll garbed in a frilly white dress. Now a venue for contemporary theater in central Kyoto, this building was once an office of the national newspaper Mainichi Shimbun. Since April 2012, it has been the old toy factory that is home to these five characters who make up the long-running production GEAR; a fun colorful high-tech and captivating stage show performed without words.
Under the direction of On Kyakuyou, GEAR is the story of four “roboroids” stuck in static motion inside an abandoned toy factory in a derelict futuristic dystopia. The industrial style machine-like set with a thick flat rotating cog for a stage at first evokes a bleak air of nothingness. The roboroids are not aware their factory was closed down years ago and are still working each day in the same way they were when it was in operation. Their machine-like movements are inane and robotic and their existence inconsequential. Roboroids can’t speak, so everything they do happens without a single word.
Then, Doll—a product once manufactured there—appears before the audience like magic. In the blink of an eye, she is transformed from a lifeless shelf item, confined to her box, into the charismatic mischievous full-of-life Doll. As soon as Doll makes the scene, everything changes. Her presence suddenly breaks the rigid routine of the roboroids and they jolt into autonomous action, exploring the surroundings of their own volition. After a little getting-to-know-you time, the characters unleash the fun in the form of break dancing, juggling, mime and magic tricks; a positively entertaining feast for the eyes.
The thing about Doll that no one quite understands, but fully accepts in a state of suspended disbelief, is that she has the power to unlock the hidden talents of the roboroids with a single touch. Suddenly the previously grim, desolate factory interior becomes a colorful playground of flashing lights, levers, and a stage for all their talents to shine. And shine they do. GEAR’s cast of performing artists is a lineup of impeccably trained, highly skilled craftspeople who can turn their bodies into mesmerizing works of art.
An immersive sensory experience rather than a story with a strong narrative plot, GEAR uses everything in its repertoire to surprise and delight. Projection Mapping is utilized by the crew to project light and video designs onto selected areas of the modernistic set and forge the appearance of a computerized mechanical realm. Laser beams are a key part of the colorful light display and are even incorporated into the magic tricks. The most captivating costume piece of the show is Doll’s LED dress concealing hundreds of tiny delicate multicolored lights, which are remotely controlled. The LEDs light up and change colors in time to the music and dance steps for a truly entrancing visual effect.
A fantastic show, in the true sense of the word, and especially fun for kids, GEAR will have you so busy gazing in wonder, gasping in surprise, and whispering “How did they do that?” to the person next to you that you won’t even notice 75 minutes pass by. This unforgettable theatrical experience may even have you shedding an unexpected tear for these five quirky beings, but you’re guaranteed to be smiling your way out the front door.
• Times: 2nd and 4th Weds and every Fri 2pm & 7pm; Sat, Sun and hols 12pm & 5pm
• Cost: General ¥4,700 (ADV ¥4,200); Over-60s & Uni Students ¥3,700 (ADV ¥3,200); School Students ¥2,700 (ADV ¥2,200); Children 3-5 Free
• Access: 5-min walk from Keihan Sanjo Stn; 8-min walk from Hankyu Kawaramachi Stn; 10-min walk from Subway Karasuma Line, Karasumaoike Stn
• Information: email@example.com
• Tel: 0120-937-882 (10am–7pm, Closed Tuesdays)
• Website: gear.ac/en