A Japanese play that is not lost in translationPerformances in foreign languages may be painful to watch, especially if you are not familiar with the language and the performance lasts several hours. Yet, a performance last week was one that would make physical pain drift away, despite sitting on a wooden floor for three hours with legs folded.
A Japanese troupe called the Shinjuku Yang San-bak succeeded in entertaining a non-Japanese audience by staging an hours-long play entirely in Japanese. The play was titled “Kaze no Matasaburo,” or “The Son of the Wind,” which is a fantasy epic based on a famous Japanese fairy tale.
It has been showcased at a weeklong international theater festival held in Yangsu-ri, in northeastern Gyeonggi province.
The exotic and surreal play is about an adult male who falls in love with a boy, whom he believes is a mythical figure from the “land of the wind.” A woman, in the meantime, is trying to rescue her dead lover from the “land of the dead.”
Juro Kara, the playwright, has woven together a children’s tale with a tragic love story that was evocative of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.
Audiences, who had little or no knowledge of the story, were intrigued even before the curtain went up, when they were told to take off their shoes before entering the theater.
The no-shoes policy was because the play was staged inside a tent. Such productions are presented by a “tent theatrical company,” whose members fund their own productions and perform at various locations.
The troupe also asked the audience to grab a floor cushion and sit on tatami, a Japanese straw mat, on the floor.
The audience then sat quietly as lights inside the tent dimmed and the narrator spoke from the dark, symbolizing that we were now entering the land of fantasy.
The story kicks off as Oribe, a runaway from a mental hospital, finds himself in love with a young pilot he believes is Matasaburo, a mythical character he used to admire when he was young. The character, Matasaburo, is from a Japanese classic written by Kenji Miyazawa. However, he later finds out that the boy is actually a woman named “Erika,” who has dressed up as a male pilot to search for her dead lover, who vanished while flying.
Occasional Korean narration was provided to help the audience understand the complex scenario.
The play comes to an end with the tent being torn down, which was planned by Kim Su-jin, a Korean-Japanese producer.
Details of Japanese garments, facilities and aircraft from the 1950s were featured, while some male characters chose to only wear tiny sumo pants as they danced on and off the stage.
The Yangsu-ri performance was the start of its seven-city tour in Korea. It will also be playing in Seoul, Daegu, Jeonju, Asan, Miryang and Sokcho until Sept. 10. The Seoul performance will run from tomorrow to Saturday in Yeouido.
by Lee Min-a
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