(The following entry is my summary of an article written by Karin Bergquist for culturebase@dccd.dk.)

Yoshi Oida is a Japanese actor, director and teacher, and one of the closest collaborators of Peter Brook. He was trained from an early age in the traditional No-theatre´s classical kyogen style of acting, where the main focus was on being able to reproduce strictly prescribed movements, stylised chants and formalised facial gestures, just as it had been done for over 700 years. In No he learned that what changes is the inside of a thing, not its external appearance. Different background made him stand out among Brook’s actors. The British director was deeply impressed by Oida’s expressive physical control and his concentrated presence on stage.

Oida has travelled widely with his different theatre companies across Africa, through the Middle East, India, Australia and North America, in order to extend his knowledge of acting techniques. What interests and moves him most are the songs and dances which express spiritual traditions – from the songs and dances relating to the Sufi tradition, through Tibetan Buddhism, to religious rituals in Africa. They not only serve to delight the spectators, but also to bring about the experience of a spiritual transformation in the performers.

Oida regularly returns to Japan for short stays, where he works with all kinds of specialists from a wide range of schools: yoga and Bujutsu masters, Shinto priests, Buddhist monks, Japanese avant-garde musicians. He has learnt mudras and mantras by heart, and has even taken a three-month period of training as a priest at a Shinto monastery to learn the secret rituals of the Shinto religion.
“In Japan,” says Oida, “there have always been strong links between religion, the arts and the traditional martial arts (bujutsu). These links are not only spiritual, they also affect the practice. Religious exercises – those of Shintoism as well as those of Buddhism (mudras, mantras, purification rituals, meditation, etc.) – are similar to the exercises that are described as the do (path) of the martial arts. In each case, it is about finding an awareness of truth through physical rather than intellectual means. Traditionally, physical experience is given preference over a purely rational awareness as a means of gaining knowledge.”

Oida summed up his experiences in “The invisible Actor”, written with Lorna Marshall.

Yoshi oida


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