In the 2022 Venice Immersive lineup and now on its way to Raindance Immersive, TYPEMAN, Keisuke Itoh’s fourth VR work, is an emotional and full of life experience that plays with nostalgia, music and live acting.
Live theatre experiences are often the most eagerly awaited in an immersive event and one of the experiences we have heard a lot about in the last couple of months is Keisuke Itoh’s TYPEMAN.
Presented at the 79th Venice Film Festival in the Venice Immersive section, TYPEMAN is now on its way to Raindance Immersive and tickets are already available on the official website.
I was curious to see this new work by Keisuke Itoh when the selection for Venice was announced. I had the pleasure of attending the original presentation of Feather, his first work, during the Biennale College Cinema VR 2019 and since then I have been fascinated by his way of storytelling: colourful atmospheres, great use of music, an interaction that is always easy and made of single gestures that are intrinsically part of the narrative.
His BEAT, the adorable tale of two small robots who fall in love, was – quite rightly – selected for the fanheart3 awards 2020, collateral award at the Venice Film Festival dedicated to audiences, and the choice was strongly linked to the characters, who are written in such a way as to make the user immediately become attached to them and their vicissitudes.
This connection with the characters in the story is maximised in TYPEMAN, the story of a typewriter in human form that is now relegated to a forgotten past but asks us – the audience – to bring it back to life, and not to forget it.
TYPEMAN is an emotional journey of three players and a live actor joining from Japan, made up of silent communication and a final explosion of sound and music that brings a concrete feeling of joy and involvement to everyone on stage. It is a piece that ranges from the poetic and nostalgic to the liberating and happy, an experience that is spiritual but also very physical, where people cannot help but dance and smile and rhythmically press the large typewriter keys that appear all around to keep TYPEMAN alive.
We discussed this work with director Keisuke Itoh and this is what he told us.
Bringing TYPEMAN to life
AGNESE – First of all, congratulations on Venice… and now on Raindance too! I’m really glad for the success TYPEMAN is having! How was your experience at Venice Immersive?
KEISUKE ITOH – Thank you very much. It was very, very satisfying. I was able to communicate with people from all over the world through TYPEMAN and received many comments and warm words. I really appreciate that so many people love TYPEMAN.
A. – When I was little, I used to play a lot with the typewriter my mother used. Even today, that typewriter is one of my fondest memories of my past. Why did you choose TYPEMAN as the character in this story? Did a typewriter also play a role in your life or is it more a symbol?
K. I. – That is lovely. I would have loved to hear about that episode of yours before we finished the production of TYPEMAN! Personally, I had never touched a typewriter before starting the creation of TYPEMAN, but only knew about it. At first, I was going to use “language” as a motif for this piece, but it was very difficult to make a story. Then, I came up with the idea of using “letters,” which led me to the idea of using “typewriters”. At that moment, the character of TYPEMAN was born in my mind.
A. – TYPEMAN was one of the few live experiences at this year’s Venice Film Festival. Can you tell us why you chose this path and what it was like working with VRChat?
In my third VR work CLAP (TYPEMAN is my fourth VR work), there is a scene where the main character “Thread man” dances. The person who choreographed the dance for Thread man is YAMATO, the actor who plays TYPEMAN. He is a talented dancer who is active internationally. VRChat is live theater, so the content of the same performance changes depending on the actions of the audience. And the actors are constantly growing as they interact with the audience. I think you will see an even more attractive TYPEMAN at Raindance, so please look forward to it.
Connecting with the characters
A. – Speaking of live performance, yours is a silent character so the actor cannot use their voice to aid interpretation. How do preparation and performance change when all you have at your disposal are gestures?
K. I. – Gesture-only acting leaves room for the imagination of the audience. I believe it can give the story a richer imagination than if it were told verbally. Although this makes it more difficult to convey things accurately, I try to reinforce understandability through lighting and musical direction.
A. – What have you learnt over the years about how to create a connection between the audience and the characters? What elements are really relevant?
K. I. – All of my works have one thing in common: they all value “connection”. On a personal note, I have always had a complex about communicating with others. However, I realized one day that I can communicate with others through the characters I have created without any problem. Perhaps it is my strong desire to connect. My characters and I feel very happy to be able to connect with the production team and the audience through my work.
A. – Music has always played a relevant role in your productions and the sound and music of TYPEMAN are phenomenal. Can you tell us more about how you worked on these aspects?
K. I. – The music for all four VR works I have directed to date has been originally composed by pianist Yui Morishita. He has always given me great advice on my plots from a musical point of view and has inspired me a lot. TYPEMAN’s voice is one of them. This time I asked VR sound engineers LACTOICE, who are active in the VRchat community, to program the structural design of the session scenes. Their collaboration made it happened.
A. – The other day I was reading a beautiful review by a great writer and friend of mine, Serena Seghedoni, on Loud and Clear Reviews. She wrote: “ “I am here,” reads the writing on the screen, and yet he’s not there anymore, because typewriters are a thing of the past: we see them around us, but they’re passive reminders of a time long gone. And yet, this timeworn object made us feel alive, showing us that meaning can be found in the smallest, most insignificant of things if only we remember to be present, and to pay attention to what really matters”. Could you comment on these words?
K. I. – I also read her review and was very moved by her kind and warm thoughts. TYPEMAN’s story begins with his “I am here”. We cannot live alone. This is a very important phrase. I believe that all people and things in this world are connected in some way, and I hope that everyone who experiences TYPEMAN will be inspired to realize this important “connection”.