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Hanchu Yuei Interview with Suguru Yamamoto

範宙遊泳 山本卓卓 インタビュー

Interview/Text: Kyoko Tokunaga Portrait: Masamasa Nishino

Cooperation: International Performing Arts Meeting in Yokohama 2015

Apart from the will of the creator, there are works that transform and grow according to the environment and the demands of the times. In 2013, Hanchu-Yuei's novella "Little Girl X" was performed at the Shinjuku Menka Gallery, a small gallery in Shinjuku . In May, the original work and a joint production version with local people were performed. In November, he was invited to Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, where he won two awards including the Best Screenplay Award at the Bangkok Theater Festival Awards 2014. At this year's TPAM, it will be performed on February 14th and 15th as an international joint production dance piece with Thailand. We interviewed Suguru Yamamoto, the creator and director of this work, who absorbs its growth while preserving it. At the time of the interview, Yamamoto was in Thailand for about three weeks, so the interview was conducted via Skype.

Birth of "Little Girl X" --- Theater is all about the dead ---

── Let's start with the origin. The story of "Little Girl X" is about a young man who is searching for the culprit of a serial rape and murder of little girls and is trying to punish him, and a young man who rebels against his older sister, who has obtained a luxurious life by marrying a doctor. The story is presented as two major streams.

Well, that's the story.

── For the last few years, Hanchu-Yuei's work has established a style in which characters, photographs, and color blocks are projected onto a wall or screen with a projector, and the actors act in front of it. The movements of the actors are sometimes comical, and the characters and color blocks are vivid, making it pop at first glance. Where did the darkness of the content, which can be said to be the exact opposite of that, come from?

"Little Girl X" 2014 / TPAM in Yokohama 2013 / Photo: Hideto Maezawa

"Little Girl X" 2014 / TPAM in Yokohama 2013 / Photo: Hideto Maezawa

I haven't said it publicly, but when I made this, I was overwhelmed by the earthquake (Great East Japan Earthquake). When I think about it now, I felt like I was overreacting because of fear and various other negative emotions.

── However, two years had passed since the disaster at the time of creation.

Do you feel like it's gotten better over time? It felt like a body blow with a time lag.

──Is it because of the time difference that you didn't directly talk about ``natural threats'' and ``the deaths of many people''?

It was a rule I imposed on myself when I was making that work that I would never write words that were directly related to things like the earthquake. (Not affected by the disaster) I don't think it's delicacy for me to use direct expressions. There is only one place where the word Geiger counter is used, but the rest are not mentioned at all. I thought that by laying down such rules, I could create a certain mood.

── A certain mood?

It was the mood of the people that existed in me at the time, as well as in the people around me. "Little Girl X" isn't just about the earthquake. Ohashi-kun (Ikki Ohashi, an actor belonging to Hanchu-Yuei) is a man who is looking for an enemy with a hammer, but it doesn't matter if the enemy is replaced by, for example, the government. In other words, it's not in front of you, it's something that exists on the other side of the TV. Hammer's boyfriend is watching TV in front of an electronics store when news about the arrest of a serial rape-murderer of young girls comes through. At that time, an uncle who was watching TV next to me said, ``This guy should be caught quickly and put to death.'' But when I actually meet the culprit, I feel, ``I can't believe this person would do such a terrible thing.'' That's the total.

── I feel that you have a strong interest in human malice, as I feel in your other works as well. It's not about "what is malice?", but about "what makes up malice?"

indeed. Including myself, I always feel that I want to question the ethics of the viewers. For example, when a certain incident occurs, people have different opinions about the incident, right? I want to create a device that allows the viewer to be screened out and feel that the person sitting next to them may feel differently. I may be a bit particular about giving plays that kind of function.

── While writing episodes that link reality with such a thrilling sense of distance, you also incorporate the unrealistic perspective of fetal monologues.

Children in the womb do not have the right to speak. That's why I didn't think that it would be written in plays so far, so I wanted to bring it out. In the first place, I had always felt that theater was all about the dead. There are dramas about life before it happens, but they don't say it in their own words. I'm more interested in stories of unexplained lives than stories of dead people.

── Is it curiosity or ambition as a playwright that you want to include words that have hardly been written yet?

Both as a playwright and my personal feelings. Both.

Living things and non-living things -- I'm on the same page --

── In Sayonara Nippon -I want to sleep with meditation- (2013), you wrote the dialogue for the chair. Is it something that you naturally have, like fetuses, that many playwrights treat as equals to beings that don't have much personality?

The decisive difference between life and non-life is not in me. Whether it's moving or not, that's about it. So whether it's a chair or an unborn life, I probably write with the same feeling as a normal human being. What the customer receives may be different, but I don't divide it myself.

Hanchu-Yuei "Farewell Japan -I want to sleep while meditating-" 2013 / © Hanchu-Yuei

── I remember when I asked him what kind of music he likes, he replied, "I listen to jazz, I listen to classical music, I don't dislike J-POP, and I like Western music." That's the answer I gave to movies and novels, and when you were a university student, you were doing theater while also participating in the Rakuken. In other words, for Mr. Yamamoto, the sense that something is special from the beginning is weak, and all of them are of equal value?

I think so. It's really all on par. I absolutely love gagaku (laughs).

── Listening to you just now, I wondered if that omnivorous feeling is connected to the awareness that "chairs, fetuses, and humans all have equal rights to speak."

I really like being called an omnivore. I would like to call myself an omnivorous boy (laughs). It may be that they are showing us what they eat and what comes out of it—excretion, if you will. But I've never been conscious of watching or listening to something in order to create a work. I like it, so I watch it and listen to it. That's why I feel like I don't want people to know what I like.

── To use the analogy of excrement, I get the impression that when you eat meat, vegetables, and fish, all that comes out is plastic. It seems that the molecular structure of what is absorbed and what comes out is completely different. In the past, my work reflected a little more omnivorous taste, but recently, the tendency I just mentioned has become stronger. I think it's linked to the time when you started using video.

It contradicts the fact that I'm being interviewed like this now, but year after year, I'm conscious of not revealing myself.

── Why do you hate being exposed?

Or rather, I'm very small. What I want to write is something bigger outside of me.

── Ah, because if you use only what you eat as nutrition, the composition of your work will be equal to yourself.

I don't think I've ever made something like a daily drama before, but when I was a student, I think I was ready to do it with just my sense. It gradually became more visible, and when the number of people watching increased, I came to think that my sense alone was weak. I want to make something stronger.

Suguru Yamamoto

── I think "Little Girl X" is a work with various strengths, and one of the keys was the ending. The young man, who finally found his enemy but was unable to do anything about it, struck himself several times with the hammer he was holding, causing the blood to spread all over the area and form a sea. However, the characters are all in hiragana, and the story suddenly has a picture book-like tone, gaining a deeper universality. That is proof that you have a high affinity between fiction and non-fiction.

There is no resistance there (the difference between fiction and non-fiction). People in theater these days--I'm also a theater person (laughs). ──There are a lot of people who have complexes about stories, and for that reason I feel that the theater world is moving towards structuralism. I like both story and structure, and I believe in the power of fiction, so if I make a scene where people fly in the sky, I'm convinced that it can be established in the story without actually hanging it. I don't think I could have done that last if I hadn't put out the characters on the projector. In terms of the match between what I wanted to do and the method, it was a last that I couldn't have done without "Little Girl X".

── In the video, the actors do not act against the backdrop of text or photographs, but instead the text or photographs and the actors stand side-by-side. How long ago did you have this idea?

In Kyoto, I did a work called "The Assassin from Ganymede" (October 2011), which is actually quite the essence of Hanchu's current work. At that time, I tried to make the actors move in the video as a story in the world of RPG, but the frustration there became the next step. I think this should work better. At the time of Ganymede, I was much more seriously thinking about 2D, 3D, and 4D. The relationships and possibilities between planes and solids. It goes back and forth, but Hanchu-Yuei no Uchu Bouken 3D (August 2011), which I did at Ophthalmology Gallery, did not have any images, but I thought a lot about having actors do two-dimensional movements. I was.

Hanchu-Yuei "Assassin from Ganymede" 2011/ © Hanchu-Yuei

Hanchu-Yuei "Assassin from Ganymede" 2011/ © Hanchu-Yuei

Replacing the narrative ─ Expose the cultural differences that act as a trajectory ──

── Now that we've talked about movement (laughs), it's finally time to talk about the work you'll be performing at TPAM this time. is it okay

It's a dance piece.

── By dance piece, do you mean that the performers are only dancers?

There will also be actors. Kage, the artistic director and performer of a company called B-Floor, which is quite famous in Thailand, and Apom of Democrazy. Kage can dance, but Apomu has never danced before. Those are the two performers.

*All names are nicknames. Thai people are given nicknames along with their official names from birth, which is mainly used as a nickname.

Production scene in Thailand/photographed by Suguru Yamamoto

Production scene in Thailand/photographed by Suguru Yamamoto

── Who do you co-direct?

Tam is a choreographer, director, and dancer who sometimes writes his own texts. Are you two or three years older than me? He is a very intelligent and well-bred gentleman, but he is a very outlaw in what he thinks and what he is trying to do.

── Tam-san and Yamamoto-san, how are you working together now?

The foundation is now ready. If the base is like a vessel, it's like thinking together about what kind of water to put in it.

── It's a little hard to imagine adapting "Little Girl X" to dance.

Today is the third week since I arrived in Thailand, and before I arrived, they had translated the play into action. It's not mime, it's the work of expressing the language scooped out of the play with the body, and as far as I can see, it's not wrong.

This is a bit off topic, but when it comes to why Tam wanted to make "Little Girl X" a dance piece this time, it's partly because he's a dancer, but at the same time, Tai has a lot to say. It seems that they are in a situation where they cannot say anything. It's a language control issue. He has an awareness of the problem there. In other words, when we chose the expression dance, it was intended to be an expression of our will to say, ``We don't talk.'' However, if you do that, the story will become less and less necessary. For a while, I felt a sense of crisis that there was no point in me, that the text didn't have to be "Little Girl X", and it was painful.

── It feels like "Little Girl X" has been swallowed up by their ideology.

Moreover, I could not have an image that it would go well. Of course, Tam has standards and various philosophies. Then he said, "But that doesn't make sense to be a collaborator." Of course, I also want to collaborate, so there was a quiet fight like that for about a week. But one time he drew a diagram and explained it to me. I said, ``Right now, the work is at this stage, and this is where I want to go. When I saw it, I realized that "Little Girl X" as a story would not separate or be taken in, but could be synchronized with Tam's ideas, and I could see what I should do from there. I am currently working towards it.

── It's very Yamamoto-san's way of grasping things visually through drawings. As for the specific question, what about the projection of characters from the projector?

I have. I also think about the quality of the characters. Since it was originally written in Japanese, the place name “Shinjuku Gyoen” appears, but Thai actors do not understand it. I want to take advantage of that difference. Alternatively, Thai actors are trying to reveal layers of culture by playing characters that are like symbols of Japan.

── It seems that the collaboration is deepening at once after a sudden change from the sense of crisis.

That's right (laughs). Another thing I'm thinking about is that Thailand has something like "12 things to be Thai". There are 12 items like ``1, we must respect the king'' which was decided when the military caused a coup d'état. I'm going to impose something similar on actors. It's a system that binds identities. If the whole flow is vertical, it has already been done, so what we are thinking about is the horizontal device. As "Little Girl X" progresses, I will insert things that come out of the intersection of Thai and Japanese culture, such as a Thai perspective, a Thai perspective that I can see from a Japanese person, and vice versa. go. I think it's safe to say that it's a side spear that stops the story, but there should be something visible through it. Also, although it's called a dance piece, it's not really a dance. The choreography is entirely Tam's responsibility, but he says that he's tired of pretty dances and that it's a matter of incorporating everyday movements.

Suguru Yamamoto

── As an extension of that, Mr. Yamamoto, do you think the finished product will be a work that can be called "Little Girl X"?

I think we have to defend it to the death. In the beginning, I didn't have that vision at all, but now both Tam and I are aiming for that.

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