Potudo-ru: necessary extreme naturalism, or porn?

After a lull in activity, fringe extremists Potudo-ru are going strong again, with company leader Daisuke Miura (below) recently staging a major commercial production at the newly re-opened Parco Theatre. Currently the group has also just finished participating in the Theater Der Welt 2010 festival in Germany.

The company’s previous proper production domestically was the revival last year of Love’s Whirlpool, also one of the final plays staged at the Theatre Tops in Shinjuku (the building has seemingly re-opened after closing, but the theatre inside is not open).

The play depicts a sex club in Kabukicho (actually, very close to Theatre Tops), where strangers gather to have a night of disconnected, no-strings-attached, uninhibited physicality. The only rules are those of hygiene and confidentiality; the two younger (and virginal) participants are even prevented from remaining in contact after they left the club, despite growing attached to each other.

The fact that these places do exist in Kabukicho (and elsewhere) and that the characters, though archetypal, are highly believable, makes Love’s Whirlpool a devastating portrait of contemporary Tokyo. The club is a Bacchic site of an escape from reality — as fuzoku, maid cafes and many other otaku subcultural “third spaces” also are. Like in Cronenberg/J G Ballard’s Crash, the characters need the sex as a way to survive, to light the path of drudgery with momentary pleasure.

The company’s unflinching approach to sexual realism in their productions can divide people. Is it merely shock tactics? Pornography? Or one of the rare places where Japanese artists create a rawness and willingness to expose themselves?

For example, compare Potudo-ru to Japanese television or cinema: the former is 99% childish and inane, the latter mostly tame and modest, especially, with a few striking exceptions, when it comes to showing sex. (Film writer and translator Jason Gray makes this point more eloquently when discussing the film Air Doll on his blog.)

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