Special interview with the triple-award winning play "Desktop Theory"! What is the theater company "Breaststroke Main Store" that received a full house ovation along with the play?

『机上の空論』、三冠受賞特別インタビュー!  作品とともに満場の喝采を浴びた、演劇カンパニー「平泳ぎ本店」とは?

Breaststroke head office looks back at the Kamosai performance and its charm

-First of all, congratulations on winning the Triple Crown.

[Matsumoto] Thank you. Out of all the activities I've done so far, this is by far the happiest. The reason behind my participation this time is my bitter experience at the "Sengawa Theater Drama Competition" held in July 2017. Six organizations participated, including Breaststroke Headquarters, but we were the only organization out of the six that did not win an award, and we received very harsh evaluations. Through that experience and trial and error, I was able to win this award at Kamosai, so I feel really happy.

I think this is all thanks to my encounter with Takeshige-san's work ``Desk Theory.'' I was really happy to be able to perform such a very interesting work.

However, to be honest, I wanted to aim for the best actor award. ``Breaststroke Honten'' is a theater company made entirely of actors. Without a playwright or director, how far can actors go alone? We were very particular about that, and we worked together to create the production and script from scratch. In that sense, it was a theater festival that provided us with the challenges we need to address in the future.


-Do you have any thoughts about the play ``Kekou no Kuron'' that you directed and performed in?

[Suzuki] When I received the script, the members shared their honest impressions, and what I felt was that it was a work that could be approached in a variety of ways. The story revolves around a novelist, an editor, a man who wants to be a novelist, and his wife as they intersect between reality and the world of fiction, but the line between reality and fiction is not clearly defined. There isn't. In other words, the decision is left up to the performer. That is the difficulty and the depth of this work.

If you think about it, I think theater itself is that kind of art. Even if there is a theme, each customer receives it in different ways. Theater is something that gives different emotions to each person. In that sense, I felt that ``Desk Theory'' is a work that is very theatrical.

[Matsumoto] Since I was in charge of directing this time, I felt that I had to properly convey the merits of the work. Initially, there was a lot of pressure from that responsibility. However, during the performance, I felt that my intentions were being accepted by the audience, which gave me confidence.

Also, it's a work that changed our stereotypes in a good way. Breaststroke Honten is a company with only male actors, so we didn't perform any productions that required female roles. We had our own particular preferences there. However, when I read ``Desktop Theory'', I realized that in order to properly convey the appeal of this work, a female cast member is essential. So, I put aside my previous obsessions and asked Hisakado-san, a friend of mine from my research student days, to participate.


[Hisakamon] I was a little surprised when I suddenly received a call in early December, even though the performance was scheduled for late January (lol). I also had some hesitation because I had never appeared in a production with a 20-minute limit. However, we have been friends since our days at the training center, and I was very happy to be able to appear in a production directed by Matsumoto-kun.

[Matsumoto] And as a result of thinking only about the work rather than our own preferences, we received good reviews. We feel this is important to us. Until now, our direction had only been worked out by the members, but now we are able to think more genuinely about the work and work on it without being too conscious of our particular preferences.


-In addition to winning the award, the theater company gained a lot from it, didn't it? Honestly, what kind of theater festival is Kamosai for performers?

[Matsumoto] It's a wonderful theater festival, isn't it? Theater companies from all over the country and overseas can gather together, and you can also experience the performances of each actor. It was a very valuable opportunity for us as well.


Normally, we don't have the opportunity to see so many works at once, and we also don't have the chance to interact with theater companies not only from all over Japan but also overseas. The competition itself has its own appeal of performing in front of many people on the big stage of KAAT's large studio, but above all, encountering other theater companies and their works is very stimulating.

For example, the Korean team ``Gekidan Dosan'' and their work ``Alternative Family Ecology Report.'' I felt that the quality of the work was high and that it was different from Japanese theater. Specifically, it is "leadership," and the members' movements are very harmonious, and they act with a different mindset from performers in so-called small theaters in Japan, who mainly produce performances for each performance. I understand. Being able to experience these differences firsthand is very educational.


[Suzuki] I think it's wonderful that a competition like this is held in the cities of Kanagawa and Yokohama. As a performer, I am very grateful that the prefecture and city are taking the initiative to prepare the environment. Also, although it's a bit abstract, I felt that KAAT's large studio was a ``comfortable stage'' to perform in. It doesn't matter how big or small the scale is, the performers can completely immerse themselves in their performance. It was a very attractive place to perform! !

−Are you thinking about participating in the 4th event?

[All] Of course! (lol).

[Suzuki] Among the criticisms I received this time, there were also points about the acting. In my case, it was about vocalization, but I hope to make use of it in the future and participate again next year.

-Please give a message to theater companies who are thinking of participating.

[Maruyama] It's not so much a message as it is my own feelings, but it's still a wonderful experience to be exposed to the performances of other theater companies. I especially thought so from the performance of Kamejito from Shimane Prefecture, who performed ``Sake, Soba, Men and Women.'' Just being able to experience acting that I don't have at the moment is a great experience, so I would love for people to try out for many theater companies.

2nd performance “Enoe wo Nareite” at Waseda Small Theater Dramakan Photo: Mikio Kitahara

Why is Breaststroke Honten a theater company made up only of actors?

-As mentioned in the first story, I heard that "Breaststroke Honten" is an "actor-based" theater company with no scriptwriters or directors. Why?

[Suzuki] It all started with Matsumoto's thoughts. First, all of them were research students at the Bungakuza Theater Research Institute. This led to the formation of "Breaststroke Honten" in 2015. However, the group did not have the same stance from the beginning as it does today; when it first formed, it performed with ready-made scripts. After a while, Matsumoto suggested, ``In order to enter society as an actor, each person must be able to be independent.'' So, for about two years now, we have been operating as a theater company where actors think and do everything. For example, we have created an omnibus-style play by each person bringing in scenes and lines from movies that have influenced them.


Each person looks at themselves, and together we pursue theatrical expression from the beginning. I have been able to experience failures and successes that I would not have in a regular theater company, and it is also a theater company that allows me to thoroughly hone my unique acting skills.

-It's something you're passionate about in order to grow as an actor. Mr. Matsumoto, please tell us what you think are the strengths of the members.

[Matsumoto] Ogawa-kun is the type of person who specializes in ``passionate roles,'' such as the kind of strong acting that appears in Kouhei Tsuka's works. Suzuki-kun is an intelligent actor, or rather, he's the type of actor who can speak his lines logically. Also, Shishikura-kun has a very strong personality and a unique atmosphere.

[Shishikura]... (laughs).

[Matsumoto] He is an actor who can make you feel attractive even with the simplest of words. And Maruyama-kun...he's usually rough around the edges, but he's strong in real life.

[Maruyama] (lol) Is that a strength?

[Matsumoto] He's an actor with an element of uncertainty, and that's what makes him so appealing. Because of its small appearance, it is quite popular with customers.

In this way, the strength of Breaststroke Main Store is that we gather members who each have different strengths and are able to put those strengths to use. You can flexibly develop your work by deciding who takes the initiative depending on the content and scene of the work, so you can engage in a wide range of creative activities. We wanted to delve into that, and as Suzuki-kun mentioned earlier, we've been working on creating the script ourselves.


Stop, worry, and be guided. Up-and-coming theater company makes a new start


-I heard that the next play you will perform will have a script written by a playwright, like this one. Has there been a change in direction?

[Matsumoto] A lot of it has to do with a number of connections. We have gained a great deal from the two years we have been active as an actor-based theater company. However, like the ``Sengawa Theater Drama Competition'' that I mentioned earlier, they were not able to demonstrate their results well on stage. So, there was a time when I was worried about the direction of the theater company and whether it was the right direction.

From there, I decided to face the playwright's words properly as an actor once again, and what made me decide to participate in Kamosai was actually something I received from Atsuyuki Nakano, Kanagawa Arts and Culture Foundation's prefecture-wide expansion program director. .

Mr. Nakano happened to be attending the Sengawa Theater Drama Competition recently.
``As an actor, each individual has their own power. That's why it's a waste to be in the current state. We should get a playwright.'' But we ourselves were at a loss as to what to do next, so we quickly talked about it. It made sense to me.

And now we have the new ``breaststroke main store''.

``Boke'', which will be performed at Waseda Small Theater Doramakan from February 16th of this year, is the first of these. The screenplay was written by Hiroo Koshi, an up-and-coming playwright, and after learning about our past activities, he gladly accepted the role. It's a very interesting play, and our acting has evolved further based on it, so I hope many people will come and see it.


-Finally, please tell us about your aspirations as an actor and the goals of the theater company.

[Suzuki] I have a habit of looking at things objectively. Of course I am concerned about my acting, but I am also concerned about how the entire work will progress. I feel fulfilled when I feel that I am successfully supporting a part of that large flow. So, I would like to aim to become an actor who can handle any type of work and who can support me.

[Ogawa] I would like to aim to be an actor who can convey the message. As an example, even in the act of ``cutting'', what should you cut? The way the message is conveyed depends on whether or not the actor has a clear image in mind. I want to be the kind of actor who can convey all kinds of expressions clearly and comfortably to the audience.

[Shishikura] He's a down-to-earth actor. For example, Kirin Kiki. Just by standing there, you can convey the atmosphere to the entire space. Also, while I'm not aiming for it, there are moments when I feel like I'm empathizing with the performer when I'm acting. I can't put into words what I'm feeling, but I want to cherish the emotions of that moment.

[Maruyama] He is an actor who can convey emotions naturally. I would like to hone my acting so that the audience can truly empathize with my expressions such as happy, sad, and angry.


[Matsumoto] Theater is the "art of words." And when we try to use words to express things that cannot be expressed in words, such as the subtleties of people's hearts and emotions, emotion is born. I would like to continue to pursue this goal of ``using words to constantly depict people's hearts and things that can only be imagined.''

The theater company's goal is to perform overseas. We chose the name ``Breaststroke Head Office'' with the intention of eventually expanding our activities overseas. By adding the words ``Breaststroke Main Store'' in kanji, we wanted to give the company an identity as a Japanese company and to be active in the world. Also, when I heard the word "breaststroke," I had in mind the accomplishments of Kosuke Kitajima, a former member of Japan's competitive swimming team. If you hone your skills, you can overcome differences in size and athleticism and compete on the world stage. I'm sure it's the same thing in theater.

In the not-too-distant future, we would like to perform on stage overseas.


Breaststroke main store 4th performance “Boke”
Performance dates: February 16th (Friday) – February 19th (Monday), 2018
Performance location: Waseda Small Theater Dramakan 1-101 Totsukacho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 169-0071
Start: 16th (Fri) 19:30, 17th (Sat) 14:00-/19:30-, 18th (Sun) 14:00-/19:30-, 19th (Mon) 14:00-
Tickets: 2,500 yen in advance, 3,000 yen on the day, pair ticket 4,000 yen, student 1,000 yen, cultivating ticket 2,000 yen
[Same-day payment/Reservation by bank transfer] Quartet Online
[Reservations made by credit card payment] Theater Pass
Inquiries: hiraoyogihonten@gmail.com or 090-4099-2941


“The Gentleman of the Viewing Hill” starring Dairin Suzuki, a member of Breaststroke Headquarters
Performance dates: March 7th (Wednesday) – March 11th (Sunday), 2018
Performance location: Kitatopia Pegasus Hall 5F, 1-11-1 Oji, Kita-ku, Tokyo 114-8503
Start: 7th (Wednesday) 19:30~, 8th (Thursday) 14:00~/19:30~, 9th (Friday) 19:30~, 10th (Saturday) 14:00~/19:30 ~, 11th (Sun) 14:00~/18:00~
Tickets: 3,500 yen in advance, 3,800 yen on the day, 1,000 yen for high school students and under
Inquiries: 03-5912-0840 (J-Stage Navi)

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