HIRO, the man who sailed his house

‘HIRO, the man who sailed his house,’ is a true story that was recorded by American author, Michael Paterniti. It has recently been developed by co-creators, Humphrey Bower and Kylie Maree, in this first-time collaboration with Perth performance-maker, dancer and WAAPA lecturer, Samantha Chester.

This unusual but fascinating, 55-minute monologue – with ‘puppet’ accompaniment – is a co-production between The Blue Room and Samantha Chester. It can be seen at The Blue Room Studio, in James Street, Northbridge each evening at 7.00 pm until 30th June, and then at 8.30 pm until 7th July.

The scene: is a quiet house on Japan’s north-east coast in March 2011.

The set and graphic design is by Rhys Morris. The walls and floor are matte black. A loft of hundreds of pigeons (paper suspended on threads) fills the rear wall. There is a small kitchen area to the left of the stage. The dining room has a solid oak table and chairs. On the table is a table-runner, two sets of cups and saucers, with a white teapot.

 Lighting designer Phoebe Pilcher, and her associate Kristie Smith, have selected a few warm-toned flood lamps for their afternoon tea ceremony. This changed to a blue as the tsunami built up and then to several, low level mini spots as the area’s electrical power collapsed. At sea a couple of mechanic’s work lamps were moved around the set to give authentic and dramatic effects.

Collaborator, stage manager and tech operator was Timothy Green.

       It is just after lunch on 11th March 2011, and Mrs Shinkawa (Kylie Maree) is preparing a pot of tea in the kitchen. She gently lays a fine china cup and saucer on the table in front of her loving husband, 60-year-old Hiromitsu (Humphrey Bower).

       Within seconds Yuuko hears a quiet rumble, followed by the heavy table shaking. It was the Tōhoku earthquake. The next 5 minutes were to changes lives forever.

       Hiro found himself perched on his house roof, 16 kms out to sea, with only a few mountains visible on the horizon – and nothing else around, except the vast Pacific. The warmth of his wife’s ‘presence’ brought Hiro peace of mind and assurance.

     The calm was soon followed by ferocious aftershocks. What was to happen next?

Director Samantha Chester has gathered WAAPA tutors / friends to bring this disturbing but exciting show to the theatre. A half-hearted production could have been comical and tedious; this type of production called for the very best of acting skills, combined with immensely talented technical backup to show the devastation. Samantha chose her team perfectly.

Composer Ekrem Eli Phoenix’s musical backing was subtle and sensitive. Then his work (? As no sound designer named) on the soundscape of the tsunami moving in had the theatre vibrating, with wood crunching and 10 metre waves lapping, the production was extraordinary.

Humphrey Bower has a unique talent for telling a story. Whether he has masks, or is a dumb mute using Aslan, he has perfect pace and an ability to draw you into his space. You are guaranteed to experience his every thought and physical suffering. Yuuko’s spirit was a piece of genius, wonderfully handled by Kylie.

This skilful monologue will enthral and mesmerise you. Outstanding.