Takuya Murakawa's performance "Zeitgeber" was one of many works in the recent Festival/Tokyo that grappled with
"I don't know what theatre can or cannot do yet, so I prefer simply ways," Murakawa wrote in the show’s leaflet.
And, indeed, the stage was bare except for two folding chairs, a microphone and a small stereo set.
"I heard that the children who were the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake are playing a game of make-believe about the earthquake," the director continued. "Some child shouts, 'Earthquake!' and then they go under the desk. Another shouts, 'Tsunami is coming— run!' and they all climb up on the chairs and desks."
Murakawa noted that psychologists would say the children are finding their own way to "overcome" the damage from the disaster, but he found their actions more reassuring than overcoming. "And in a play," he wrote, "the actors and audience probably experience something reassuring."
Insistent on interactivity with the audience, Murakawa introduced himself from the stage and then asked for a volunteer to join actor Shuzo Kudo. Interestingly, the audience member who volunteered at the show I attended [not in the photos here] was not Japanese and couldn't speak the language.
Her Japanese friend had explained to her that the director wanted no limb movement and had declared that, once she had announced her wish three times, the performance would end.
It all went quite smoothly. The volunteer remained paralysed, seated on the chair, completely dependent on Kudo to move her around.
The stage became a house in our imagination as he pantomimed cleaning her up and so on.
Her wish was to see a shooting star, but she only proclaimed it twice before Murakawa decided to end the performance, after a little more than an hour.
It was truly intriguing to witness such a relationship onstage, unscripted and unpredictable—we had no idea how or when it would end. Kudo's repetitive actions were not boring, instead reminding me of people sacrificing their lives to take care of a loved one.
This perception was driven home when Kudo casually took a cigarette from Murakawa, who standing downstage right, and had a smoke while the volunteer remained sitting upstage left.
Kudo's sincerity in his display of selfless dedication turned a total stranger into someone he truly loved and cared about. The result was further proof that life's very ordinariness can be astounding onstage—and that human relations form the core of every drama.
I returned to
I'd never heard of Takuya Murakawa before this trip to
The writer was one of the 10 critics-in-residence at Festival/Tokyo.
written by Pawit Mahasarinand
published in THE NATION on Thursday 22nd December, 2011
photos by Ryohei Tomita/ courtesy of Festival/Tokyo
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