Part 3. What else and what is to come?
Chelfitsch were on a recent tour of the States and have previously played in Europe. The closest they have come to London is Wales, bizarrely enough. With the funding they are getting for these tours and the success that Toshiki Okada has had, surely they can do an English translation (or better still, a English “adaptation/version”) and take it to a major English-speaking theatre centre. Somewhere like the Riverside Studios would be ideal. Apparently they (for “they” read Okada) are shortly to begin auditions for a spring 2010 tour but once more, I do not believe they plan to reach London. Playing at continental festivals is great for your profile but isn’t it just playing safe?
Ishinha seemed to meet with approval in Australia from what I can gather online but they have not had to face a formidable battalion of critics and reviewers yet. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could take a production to London for the B.I.T.E. festival?
There is a dearth of English-language information on Ishinha available; some press coverage from a broadsheet would be great. The Wikipedia article is adequate but cannot say more because of course there is a lack of resources to use (and heaven forbid you state a personal opinion on Wikipedia). With their forthcoming appearance as part of F/T09 they should get deserved some media attention from the Japanese English newspapers at least.
Trance by Shoji Shokami took a long time to reach London but when it did it met reasonable acclaim. Unfortunately, it came in the midst of a lot of similar works (Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange) and post-In-Yer-Face Theatre, so no doubt seemed like old hat. At best it is a comedic, lighter version of what Nineties playwrights did (should I use the past tense?) with much more ferocity at the Royal Court and Bush theatres. “An engaging and warm-hearted production…lovely, thought-provoking evening,” says Alex Sierz: hardly provocative. Also, I am amused how all the British reviewers paraphrased their press releases introducing Trance as “hugely popular”, a “megahit” and so forth. How does one measure that in Japan? Either way, Kokami hardly has the following of Gekidan Shinkansen (劇団新感線), which surely is a good thing.
Surely more genuinely deserving of the description “hugely popular”, Warai Daigaku was put on in English by the original author Koki Mitani in Tokyo and then touring the UK. They secured an excellent cast (Roger Lloyd Pack and Martin Freedman) and got fair notices from the press. However, in the end it never reached the West End. This was very unusual, though: a mainstream commercial Japanese play given a UK translation and production (and even a new title, The Last Laugh). However, the original benefits from its background of Japanese militarism and censorship which, in spite of an adaptation, might not have the same power in Britain (but would of course in, say, Germany).
What next? Shu Matsui‘s work is difficult and uncommercial, but it would be appreciated abroad. There is nothing opaquely “Japanese” about it. A translation should be funded and then one of his plays might be picked up by a small London theatre. On the other hand, Daisuke (Potudo-ru) Miura‘s work is highly attractive for London stages. It runs the risk of coming in the post-In-Yer-Face Theatre wave and seeming imitative, but I can’t think of other contemporary Japanese plays more suitable for foreign production than Miura’s.