Having never heard of Kentaro Korbayashi or Mr Potsunen previously I had no idea what to expect at the Print Room at the Coronet and am happy to report I was completely blown away by an utterly brilliant performance artist. Kentaro is only playing 4 performances here in the UK having arrived from doing 3 performances in Paris last week and all I can do is encourage those who appreciate superb original artistic work to make sure they go and see him by the 8th of July!
Kentaro Kobayashi is a Japanese comedian, manga artist, an award-winning playwright and plainly also an exceptionally gifted performance artist with an extraordinary imagination. His influences include Charlie Chaplin and Monty Python and his one-man show is an incredible mesh of comedic mime, animation, film, projection, magic, puppetry, movement and a fantastic imagination! It is also an incredibly polished and nuanced performance, thought provoking, funny, engaging, constantly surprising and all done with masterful timing. Plainly extremely difficult to do yet he makes it all look absolutely effortless – the hallmark of a great artist.
Potsunen began life more than a decade ago in 2005 as a series of theatrical sketches and has developed over the years. ‘Mr Potsunen’ is apparently well known throughout Japan as Korbayashi toured extensively throughout his country in 2011 before bringing his show to Paris and Monaco in 2012 and 2015. Being ‘potsunen’ in Japanese means to be terribly lonely and Korbayashi has created a character grappling with the essence of this in every aspect of his daily life. Mr Potsunen lives his solitary life with its ups and downs at home, work and out and about climbing or following butterflies (which he also draws – he is also an artist and first graduated from art college before pursuing a performing career). It made me think for a fleeting moment of an eccentric English equivalent in poor unfortunate Charles Pooter in George and Weedon Grossmith’s ‘The Diary Of A Nobody’ as he slogged through daily life trying to cope with all manner of unexpected and perplexing problems. In Mr Potsunen’s Peculiar Slice Of Life we see a gentleman in similarly unanticipated situations in all aspects of his often unremarkable life. They and his responses to them become extremely remarkable, also poignant, eccentric and wonderfully funny!
Kobayashi is alone on the stage for most of his performance, very occasionally supported by Daisuke Minami as a puppeteer of a headstrong independent dog-like pet who brings some much-needed company to solitary Mr Potsunen for a short while. The timing between them is split second and remarkable.
Kobayashi’s wonderful performance is also elegantly enhanced by different styles of evocative and delightful music (no composer named in the programme though there was a name flashed up on the screen) as Kobayashi’s magnificent hand-drawn animations are projected onto white screens around him to create a spectacular world of art and magic. The animations and effects are extremely clever as Kobayashi performs with them with extraordinary precision – his actual physical arrival to the centre of the stage at the beginning is stunning. Without any spoken words Kobayashi expresses aspiration, curiosity, disappointment, elation, confusion, understanding, dreaming and much else. A few stories are sometimes preceded by a simple written quotation. One which seemed particularly poignant was… ‘People sometimes do not have enough imagination … for the way they want their lives to turn out to be…‘ Simple but profound.
Mr Potsunen’s Peculiar Slice Of Life is one of those truly unique, theatrical endeavours which should be unmissable. Kentaro Kobayashi is an immensely talented, humble and engaging man – an extraordinary performance artist who makes us laugh, causes us to be thankful and touches heart and soul. Joyous! And Unmissable.
Review by Catherine Françoise
Featuring his original animations and manga-style drawings, Kobayashi’s mime-based performance immerses the audience in a spectacular world of art and magic. Playfully mixing live performance with film and projection, Mr Potsunen’s Peculiar Slice of Life glimpses into the solitary universe of one gentleman’s daily existence. Obsessed with the trivial, absorbed by seemingly unimportant pursuits, Mr Potsunen’s story is tender, eccentric, beautiful and wonderfully funny.
Performer, writer and manga artist Kobayashi first performed the solo show series “Potsunen” in 2005 in Tokyo. Mr Potsunen’s Peculiar Slice of Life played a sold-out UK premiere run at Leicester Square Theatre in 2015, having been performed in Paris and Monaco, as well as extensively touring Kobayashi’s home country of Japan. 2017 sees his return to London by popular demand in Notting Hill’s adventurous new theatre.
5 – 8 July 2017