Zou, chelfitsch, Asagaya Spiders and more!

Apologies, it’s been aeons since my last blog. What’s been going on? Well, for a start there were two theatre-related articles in theory written by me published on Tokyo lifestyle guide CNNgo (one on theatre districts and another on chelfitsch).

I have also seen a spate of new things. The new chelfitsch in Yokohama, Who Knows We Are Not Injured Like the Others?, was everything I expected, thoug there was less detached body movement and gestures than before, and the language was also not so consciously fragmented and ‘youth speak’. The themes, about a young married couple living in an apartment, were similar to previous work: we like to think these people are not like us, but they are — banal, passive, unable to move forward. Still, I am not entirely convinced that Okada couldn’t expess the same things in less than thirty minutes. Development is paramount.

The Modern Swimmers play, Bonkotsu Taun (Ordinary Town), by the award-winning Ryuta Horai, was a series of repetitive arguments and fight scenes, strung over a lacklustre ‘plot’ about a gangster and a young man killing his mother. Oh, and there was a girl who worked at a supermarket. No characters or drama in sight. Perhaps if I’d seen the popular Yakou Hoteru (Luminous Hotel), to which this was a kind of sequel, it might have helped matters. Horai’s next play in July is at the New National Theatre so we’ll see what he produces for that.

Anti-Clockwise Wonderland by Keishi Nagatsuka (Asagaya Spiders) seemed to be saying interesting things about the nature of the author, but could not make up it’s mind whether it was a thriller, drama…or just self-indulgence. Good set and direction, on the whole, and valiant acting in the face of scriptual confusion. A packed Honda Gekijou also seemed confused.

I maintain that Japan has a large number of very talented Katie Mitchell-style auteur directors (Kurou Tanino, for example) but is almost wholly lacking in decent young playwrights (bar a handful of exceptions, such as Shiro Maeda). The play’s the thing…

My faith was restored somewhat by the current, brilliant production at the New National Theatre of Betsuyaku‘s Absurdist masterpiece, Zou. An extraordinary set conjures up a wasteland of old clothes covering the ground, with characters appearing out of the earth through trap doors. The lead, played movingly by Ren Oosugi, is an atomic bomb survivor increasingly ostracized from society around him, until eventually he is crushed by the silence he finds when he tries to show his injuries to the world. The enigmatic play, though written in the post-war, shougekijou mindset is still thrillingly relevant for today’s audience, as we continue to ignore social ills and what we cannot relate to — out of sight, out of mind. Gorou Inagaki, from pop group SMAP, was also surprisingly good and an auditorium packed with his fans reacted well to a complex, difficult text.

Bonkotsu Taun
February 5 to 21, at Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space

Anti-Clockwise Wonderland
January 21 to February 14, at Honda Gekijou

Who Knows We Are Not Injured Like the Others?
February 14 to March 10, at ST Spot and Yokohama Museum of Art

March 5 to 30, at New National Theatre


One response to “Zou, chelfitsch, Asagaya Spiders and more!

  1. Thank you for your reviews! I’m interested in hearing more about Betsuyaku’s Zou, so I hope you will write an in-depth article about it for CNNgo as well.


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