Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker at the Barbican review: An exotic explosion of cabaret that won't be to everyone's taste

Simon Thomson
A celebration of Japan’s nerdy-dancing wotagei subculture

★★★| Barbican

Fancy spending an evening in a sweltering sub-basement – where the room and all its furnishings are wrapped in plastic? How about if you are too? Kitted out in earplugs and a disposable plastic poncho, which acts as your own uncomfortably sticky sauna? And what if you’re screamed at, serenaded, spat upon, and pelted with food, water and sparkly confetti by 25 Japanese youths wearing kitsune masks and bathing suits?

It’s not a kinky sex thing. It’s Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker, the new 45 minute sensory assault at The Pit theatre in the Barbican, which will have you asking “WTF?” from beginning to end. Seriously. What the actual F?

Part Powerpuff Girls, part brain aneurism, Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker is much like its name; a series of baffling, seemingly random things that don’t make any rational sense together, but which are in fact the product of careful selection and collectively force their own logic on the audience.

It’s the artistic equivalent of a hostage taking. Performers clambered through the stalls shouting their apologies, while others danced frenetically on stage. Projectiles rained in from every quarter, and a direct hit from a bucket of water could be saturating, and yet the bemused smiles of the audience grew broader as a sort of Stockholm syndrome kicked in.

There was about a minute when this celebration of Japan’s nerdy-dancing wotagei subculture threatened to coalesce into a narrative – as the stage was stormed by dancers in military uniforms, and a vaguely Evita-ish woman began to sing about something that might have been freedom, which vaguely chimed with the title, but this was quickly abandoned for more Russian dolls, torch waving, and loosely choreographed chaos.

What it lacks in plot, character, dialogue, dramatic tension, clean execution, sophisticated set design, length, and comprehensibility, Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker more than makes up for with blaring noise, eye-watering visual panache and raw, sloppy enthusiasm.

A neon explosion of exotic, exuberant cabaret, there is simply too much to take in, and it can be a little overwhelming. Like ikizukuri (live sashimi), this won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it is spectacularly different.