I didn’t enjoy “The Water Station” by renowned Japanese playwright Shogo Ohta as much as I expected when I read it many years ago. It has no dialogue--which is why it’s been called “silent theatre”. But a play is written for the stage, and finally I had a chance to experience another work of Ota’s, “The Sand Station”, in the silent theatre series at Festival/Tokyo in November.
South Korean director Kim Ara had already mounted a production in his homeland with a KoreanJapanese cast of various ages. Spoken language was not a major issue.
The stage had a large circle filled with sand and stairs leading to a raised platform. The characters, many of them toting baggage, moved in and out of the circle as relationships and stories unfolded.
Running for two hours with no dialogue, only occasional background music, “The Sand Station” was engaging and moving. It had vivid characters and expressions of emotion, and slow yet realistic movements that looked like dance and conveyed much meaning.
There wasn’t a yawning moment, proof that silence and simplicity—traits revered by the Japanese—are golden in theatre, especially in comparison to other media that bombard the eyes, ears and nerve endings.
The festival also saw another famed Japanese playwrightdirector, Oriza Hirata, revive his 1989 play “Citizens of Seoul”. His Seinendan Theatre presented it with four sequels, in fact.
Silence dominated the first 10 minutes as several characters came and went without speaking.
The quiet gripped the attention as we waited to see what would next happen—on the stage and in our mind.
What happened next was Hirata’s celebrated “contemporary colloquial theatre”, on full and effective display. It was highly realistic, as if we were eavesdropping on a family, even if they had nothing particularly significant to say.
The setting was
Younger Korean artists strutted their stuff in the festival’s emerging artists programme.
The contemporary dance group Modern Table, led by choreographer Jaeduk Kim, presented two impressive works.
“Awake” is a duet between a man and his inner self.
“Joker’s Blues”, a group piece accompanied by modern rendition of traditional pansori, with singing and percussion.
The concept worked well and the visuals looked slick, but some dancers’ technical skills were obviously behind those of others.
In the end, these examples of Japanese-Korean artistic kinship made me think of how few such exchanges we see in
And another question: When will we have the chance to see contemporary Korean arts in
Thanks to the Japan Foundation, at least, we’ll get to see Hirata’s newest work, “Sayonara”, the “android-human” play on which he collaborates with renowned robot scientist Hiroshi Ishiguro. It’s coming to
The writer was part of Festival/Tokyo’s critics-in-residence programme.
written by Pawit Mahasarinand
published in THE NATION on Thursday 12th January, 2012
photos by Tsukasa Aoki/ courtesy of Festival/Tokyo
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