BED in Japan

older Man in bed, director standing nearby
row of 3 Beds empty

Entelechy Arts Artistic Director, David Slater writes:

18 September 2018. Greetings from Saitama.

All is going well in the rehearsals. We’re at the halfway point with all of the characters created together and most of their stories. It’s exciting to be working in such a co-productive way with performers from the Saitama Gold Company. I’m working with Nobuko Aiso who is a brilliant translator so not a lot of difficulties on the language front although it’s embarrassing that I’m not able to speak more Japanese. I’m working on it!

There are six performers in the company –in their seventies and eighties. Kiyoshi is the oldest member of the company at 90. They are all so agile. They have a preference for working on the floor and it’s been great to be able to work at different levels. I’ve attached a picture of one of the last rehearsals where we spent most of the rehearsal literally working together on one great joined-up bed. Like the London performers they are able to surf the line between truth and fiction in their storytelling –I’m constantly thinking that they are describing some of the most difficult, painful experiences that they have had in their lives and then I realise that it has just been fictions that they have been spinning!

And of course, the stories are both different and the same. The feeling of invisibility. The feeling of being written out of society. But there is a far greater sense of fragility here. There is the myth here that the Japanese islands are sitting on the back of Onamazu, a giant catfish that is constantly moving around…a thin layer of earth floating on a boiling sea. On the morning of my arrival there had just been a massive earthquake in the north island of Hokkaido and areas to the west were suffering from the after-effects of worst typhoon for 40 years. One of the BED characters is living the experience of having to move permanently to a resettlement centre having being evacuated from her home because it was in the area contaminated by the Fukushima meltdown. She tells this painful story of having to leave her dog and cat…

I’m also playing with the idea of weaving into the piece some waka poems from a classic poetry collection called the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu. They date back to the seventh century. Many of the actors I’m working with had to learn them all by heart when they were at they feel almost embodied into the people of their generation. And many have so much resonance for the subject that we are dealing with:

actors around bed rehearsing

How lonely this villa

has become, overgrown

with vines and weeds.

No one visits me-

only autumn comes.

BED was performed on the streets of Saitama in the last weekend of September. It forms part of World Gold Theatre 2018.

bed art project in japanese street

David’s Report of the performances:

“The performances all went well but the two days over the weekend were the wettest since I have arrived here. The approach of Typhoon Jebi meant that we had to shorten the Sunday performances as the city started hunkering down in the late afternoon getting ready for its arrival. None of this deterred either the company members or the crowds. Quite often the performers were literally hidden under a sea of umbrellas, which again gave a new dimension to the work: sharing stories, on the street, in the pouring rain. For as long (and as safe) as we could the actors worked under parasols with thin plastic sheeting over the duvets. When the rain got too heavy, we protected the beds with tent coverings, which then added another layer of intimacy to the performance space.

At the centre of it all were the focused and powerful presences of the six performers: Tishiko-san, Annu-san, Masatake-san, Mituyo-san, Ritsuko-san and Kiyoshi-san. The work was like nothing they had been asked to do before, stripping out the more demonstrative performative registers of their craft as actors and just inhabiting the ‘presence’  and stillness of their characters; working in the moment, with whatever the weather or audience or passers-by, arrived at their beds with. Quite a challenging ask but they rose to it.”

Bed was in the Japan Times Newspaper, read all about it here

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