Does it seem almost impossible to conceive of a performance as stimulating as the imaginative world of childhood? In yesterday's program at Baird Auditorium, Kaze-No-Ko, a Japanese mime troupe, plumbed youthful play and ritual to present a magnificent and utterly compelling form of theater.
Employing simple props adapted to myriad uses, Kaze-No-Ko proved that a theater of suggestion and symbol can be more refreshing than realistic drama. Each of the five sections of the program was informed by director Yukio Sekiya's belief that childhood innocence is to be nurtured. His message is that encroachments of technology and premature adulthood are robbing our children of initiative and creativity.
Perhaps Sekiya's most inspired invention is his Animime, a combination of animation and pantomime. Blue-clad actors who blend into a blue background manipulate bamboo sticks and white balls to create a constantly changing world of literal, symbolic and abstract images. Mime plays using origami and rope-knotting also create a multitude of flora and fauna. These are worlds as alive, rich and complex as the best Disney cartoons.
The most theatrically familiar of the offerings was "Hanagatana" ("The Flower Sword"), a play performed in Japanese with an English translation provided. With elements of Noh and Kabuki combined with Sekiya's distinctive choreography, it is a tale of the avarice and stupidity of adults who are eventually outwitted by an artless child. In an enchanting rendition of traditional Japanese games, the actors point out that these games are falling victim to TV.
Kaze-No-Ko means Children of the Wind, an apt name for this theater of transformations.