I can understand why some people walk out: they probably came for the Manga element in the performance of War Sum Up, at the Dome: ‘a multimedia manga opera on the nature of war, ghosts and superheroes’. But here are no big-eyed girlchildren with fox ears or spikyhaired boys with swords; there’s not much action at all. In fact, no action. Just ten figures in strange padded costumes, almost motionless behind layers of gauze. The action all takes place projected onto them: drawn images of eyes, hands, explosions, flowers, mouths. Which is where the manga comes in.

In front of the black grid a woman in a yellow twin-set plays a music-box, then sings the story, in Japanese; but she, like the other singers, is from the Latvian Radio choir. Created by Hotel Pro Forma, the Danish performance company; the libretto is based on texts from Noh theatre. The music is by the British band, The Irrepressibles. There are three stories – of The Soldier, The Warrior, and The Spy. But the sur-titles don’t help much. In the end, it’s about war being terrible for everyone.

But the visual and aural impact is astonishing. Phrases are repeated over and over, Glass-like, and initially you wish that it would speed up. Then you let go and bathe in the glory of the music and just let it be slow. Muti-layered images of brilliant colour explode over the singers as their voices soar thrillingly. Narrative? well… actually, it doesn’t matter too much. The Spy eventually transforms into a manga fantasy heroine, Super-Woman: tall and dominating in her wide shoulders, goggles and high-soled boots, she stalks the stage, a staff over her shoulder, a triangle moving. Gorgeous. War is hell though.

http://www.hotelproforma.dk

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