KAGAMI at The Shed, NYC - Ryan Muir Photography

Things To Do

Hattie Lloyd 03/01/24


Welling up while wearing VR goggles is an unfamiliar experience.

But then, there’s a lot of things about KAGAMI that will be new to you. Like the fact that the stage for this piano concert has no piano. The venue’s 800-capacity space has been reduced to about 80. And the show’s solo performer, Ryuichi Sakamoto, passed away last year.

This ground-breaking show at the Roundhouse is a collaboration between the late musician and ‘full dimensional film’ producers Tin Drum, who have used cutting edge tech to transform footage captured in 2020 into a poignant mixed-reality concert.

“This virtual me will not age, and will continue to play the piano for years, decades, centuries.
Will there be humans then?
Will the squids that will conquer the earth after humanity listen to me?
What will pianos be to them?”

Sakamoto’s musings greet you as you enter the space through suspended arches of muslin sheets – a nod to the torii gates at Shinto shrines which divide the human world from the divine. That might sound grandiose, but KAGAMI genuinely feels like a strange, liminal space between heaven and earth.


Tin Drum

That’s emphasised by the effect of the glasses you’ll be wearing, which map virtual elements onto the real performance space around you. The late composer sits at his grand piano in the centre of the space, in crystal clear definition, while your fellow audience members magically fade into translucent grey figures, taking on an ethereal quality as they roam the space.

How you experience the show is up to you. You can sit down on chairs arranged in the round and soak up the virtual embellishments surrounding Sakamoto – a shower of snowy blossom; a tree growing roots beneath the piano; the cosmos stretching out in every direction – or walk around the space, standing right beside the piano to watch every tap of the pedals, every furrow of Sakamoto’s brow as he plays.

The real magic of KAGAMI, of course, is the music. Sakamoto is one of Japan’s most legendary composers. Over the years he’s explored everything from electronica and dub reggae to opera and bossa nova – he’s even composed ringtones for Nokia. But the set list you’ll hear here is focussed on his hauntingly beautiful piano compositions, including the famous BAFTA-winning score for the 1983 film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. We won’t spoil the surprise, but that piece gave us goosebumps.

Ambitious as these virtual experiences can be, they can be let down when the tech doesn’t quite measure up to the creative vision. So the other side of KAGAMI’s success comes down to the sleekness of the whole experience – the glasses are surprisingly comfortable and work reliably; there are no bulky backpacks to wear; and the music recording, played in surround sound, is so crisp and clear that it almost feels live. And most impressively, while your own version of the experience will be unique, you’re still sharing something remarkable with everyone else in the room.

Oh, and the name KAGAMI? It translates as ‘mirror’.

And you’ll definitely leave feeling reflective.


NOTE: KAGAMI runs at the Roundhouse until 21st January. You can book tickets (£15 – £42.50) HERE.

KAGAMI | Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8EH

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Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, Camden, NW1 8EH