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Gamarjobat
09/03/2006
New Straits Times
SPEECHLESS WITH LAUGHTER
By Debra Chong

Debra Chong's stress-o-meter swings back to the 0 mark after an enjoyable evening watching the hi-jinks of two Japanese mimes.

FRIDAY night. The end of yet another jam-packed, stressful week of work. The skies had poured earlier in the evening, but the climate remained insufferably humid.

The crowd inside Actors Studio Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur were shuffling restlessly in their seats. With nerves strung taut like high-tension pylons, it was obvious that an outlet for release was desperately needed.

All of a sudden, Hiropon and Ketch! (yes, the exclamation mark is indeed part of his name) exploded onto the stage. The hyperactive duo in dapper brown suits ran in, and leapt, twirled and kapow-ed amid flashing lights and loud music. Gamarjobat was on!

It was incredible! It was blood-racingly gorgeous! It was the medicine needed to cleanse the accumulated toxins from our systems.

But what is Gamarjobat?

Contrary to popular opinion, it is not a Japanese word. It is actually Georgian in origin, and means "Hello, Thank You and Goodbye", all in one go.

According to Ketch!, it was a word they had picked up from some Georgian children whom they had met in Germany during the Stralsunt International Mime Festival in 1999.

It struck a chord, and that's how the frantically-paced Gamarjobat was born. It opened our eyes that night to a madcap world of mime as never seen before. There were magic acts, like guessing how many balls a man can spit out from his mouth if a man could spit out balls, and parodies of magic acts — ever wondered how sword swallowers swallow those long skewers?

There was even a full-blown mimed version of Rocky, served up Asian-style to suit local taste buds. Action, distraction, angst and romance flowed fluid, fast and furious in key scenes reminiscent of superhero anime fare like Kamen Rider (Baja Hitam to Malaysians).

They pulled out all the stops — and whistles and cards besides. For instance, the "early" latecomers got a warning whistle and a yellow card flashed for disrupting the show; the next batch, a red card.

Those who dared to enter after five minutes were given the finger!, courtesy of a trick hand-stick.

The brand of humour is universally appealing, yet Japanese to the core. It has mind-warping elements as bizarre as those on Japanese TV commercials, like the if-you're-happy-and-you-know-it-clap-your-hair Gatsby advertisement airing at certain local department stores.

You'd be hard-pressed to catch a nano split-second during the 60 minutes that went without uproarious guffawing or snickering and palm-burning applauding.

The two diminutive Gatsby-wannabe models wordlessly extracted these from the 200-odd crowd. Their performance was flawless. Two actors, a multitude of characters, yet you won't notice the discrepancy. (Apparently, they rehearse up to seven hours a day three months in advance of a performance.)

Language and cultural differences were no barrier to understanding these two jokers. Their facial contortions, their flexible body movements all perfectly conveyed the appropriate mood, story, script and setting.

There was really no need for an elaborate set. The bare stage only served to amplify their energy and power up the splendiferous-ness of their class performance.

If you are still debating whether to pay upwards of RM52 to catch Hiropon and Ketch! here's two words: ENOUGH ALREADY!

This is not your normal freaky French mime. It is brilliant entertainment sure to deliver you from the evils of despair.