In a society too often dominated by its men, it might surprise some to learn that there is currently a strong group of female playwrights leading the fringe and just-above-fringe scene in Japan: Yukiko Motoya, Tokiko Yamaoka, Yuko Kuwabara and Junko Emoto.
Just about to open in Hideki Noda‘s Nogyou Shoujou, Junko Emoto is the leader of two gekidan and a force in the Japanese theatre world. She recently reunited with Mari Terada and Namiko Hatori for the first full-member production in two years of her (nearly) all-female Kegawazoku (lit. Hair Skin Group).
Social Pervert (社会派すけべい) was set in a run-down Bubble era ryokan and centered on the arrival of two demanding guests, and the ensuing mayhem. A kind of parody Takarazuka Revue, Emoto plays in drag the male ‘hero’ and the whole cast would burst suddenly into exaggerated pop songs throughout. It is also a pastiche of TV dramas (we all know how bad they are in Japan), with the light story hinging around the matron of the ryokan’s fan obsession with a TV detective and the real lover who promised to come back for her (inevitably he comes back, with disastrous consequences). Another typical Kegawazoku feature is the sudden semi-nude scenes, very tongue in cheek: when all hell breaks loose the cast rip off their clothes and run around, their modesty protected by carefully placed paper stars. (There are plenty of adult jokes too, with masturbation and vibrators a running gag.)
Emoto is the star here, writing and directing, and also taking on one of the main roles. However, on stage it is an ensemble effort, with only the single male performer rather a side role. There are countless scene changes and even the dialogue seems to sputter from the cast’s mouths at Shinkansen speed. Clearly playing to the fans, there are plenty of moments when the fourth wall is broken (missing props, actors bumping into the cramped — but very efficient — set). Seriousness is never attempted but you leave the theatre rather giddy with the surreal world of Emoto et al.
November 19 to December 1, 2009, at Shimokitazawa Ekimae Gekijou