Interview with Takashi Yamamoto, Hanchuuyuu

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

There are works that change and grow depending on the environment and the demands of the times, independent of the creator's will. In 2013, Hanchuu Yusei's novella `` Little Girl The original work and a co-produced version with locals were performed in May. Furthermore, in November, he was invited to Chulalongkorn University in Thailand and won two awards, including the Best Screenplay Award, at the Bangkok Theater Festival Awards 2014. And at this year's TPAM, it will be performed on February 14th and 15th as an international co-produced dance piece with Thailand. We spoke to Takashi Yamamoto, the writer and director of the film, who created and protects it while absorbing its growth. At the time of our interview, Yamamoto was in Thailand for about three weeks during production, and the interview was conducted via Skype.

The birth of “Little Girl X” ──The play is always about the dead ──

── Let me start from the beginning. The story of ``Little Girl The story has two major threads.

Well, that's the story.

── Hanchuyuu's works over the past two or three years have established a style in which characters, photographs, and color blocks are projected onto walls or screens using a projector, and actors act in front of them. The actors' movements are sometimes comical, and the text and color blocks are vivid, giving it a very pop feel at first glance. Where did the darkness of the content, which can be called the complete 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 much publicly, but when I made this, I was suffering from the earthquake (Great East Japan Earthquake). When I think about it now, I felt a sense of fear and all kinds of negative emotions, to the extent that I was overreacting.

── However, when you created it, two years had passed since the earthquake.

I feel like it has become more effective as time has passed. It started to feel like a body blow at different times.

── Is it because of the time difference that the story wasn't about a direct ``natural threat'' or ``the death of many people''?

The rule I set for myself when creating that piece was not to write any words that are directly related to earthquakes and other disasters. I thought it would be disrespectful for me (who was not affected by the disaster) to use direct expressions. There is only one place where the word Geiger counter is mentioned, but the rest is not mentioned at all. I thought that by setting such rules, I could create a certain mood.

── What do you mean by a certain mood?

It's the mood that existed within me at that time, and also that of the people around me. ``Little Girl X'' is not just about the earthquake disaster. A man played by Ohashi-kun (Kazuki Ohashi, an actor affiliated with Hanchuu Yusei) is holding a hammer and looking for an enemy, but I wouldn't mind if that enemy were replaced by, say, the government. In other words, it might not be right in front of you, but on the other side of the TV, or if you were to meet it, you would feel so human that you wouldn't think of it as an enemy... As he watches TV in front of an electronics store, he hears the news that the perpetrator of the serial rape and murder of young girls has been arrested. At that time, an old man watching TV next to me said, ``This guy should be caught quickly and given the death penalty.'' But when you actually meet the culprit, you feel, ``I can't believe that this person would do something so terrible.'' That's the total.

── This is also common to your other works, but I feel that you have a strong interest in human malice. My interest was not in ``What is malice?'' but in ``What makes malice possible?''

indeed. I always feel like I want to question the ethics of the people watching it, myself included. For example, when a certain incident occurs, how people feel about it varies, right? I want to create a device that allows the viewer to be screened and feel that their feelings may be different from the person sitting next to them. I may be a little particular about having that kind of function in my plays.

──While you write episodes that are linked to reality with a thrilling sense of distance, you also incorporate the unrealistic perspective of a fetus's monologue.

A child in the womb doesn't have the right to speak, right? That's why I didn't think this was often written into plays, so I wanted to bring it out. In the first place, I've always felt that theater is always about the dead. There are dramas that hint at the existence of unborn lives, but they don't mention them in their own words. I'm more interested in stories of unborn people than stories of dead people.

── Is it because of your curiosity and ambition as a playwright that you want to include words that have almost never been written in your plays?

As a playwright, and also my personal feelings. It's both.

Living things and non-living things - to me they are all the same -

── In ``Goodbye Japan: I want to sleep in meditation'' (2013), you wrote the lines for the chair. Do you have the same feeling that many playwrights treat beings like fetuses as equals, even though they don't have much personality?

To me, there is no definitive difference between life and non-life. It's either moving or not, that's about it. So whether it's a chair or an unborn life, I write about it with the same sense as a normal human being. What the customer receives may be different, but I don't separate it myself.

Hanchu Yuei “Goodbye Japan - I want to sleep in meditation” 2013 / © Hanchu Yuei

── I remember when I once asked you what kind of music you like, you replied, ``I listen to jazz, I listen to classical music, I don't dislike J-POP, and I also listen to Western music.'' That's the same answer you gave when it came to movies and novels, and when you were a university student, you also attended a rakuken school while doing theater. In other words, for Mr. Yamamoto, there is little sense that anything is special from the beginning, and everything comes in with equal value.

I think so. It's really all the same. I absolutely love gagaku (laughs).

── Listening to what you just said, I wondered if that sense of omnivorousness led to a sense that ``chairs, fetuses, and humans all have equal rights to speak.''

I really like being called an omnivore. I want to call myself an omnivorous guy (lol). It may be that they are showing us what comes out of eating all sorts of things - excrement, I guess. However, I have never consciously tried to watch or listen to anything in order to create works. I watch and listen because I love it. That's why I don't want people to know much about what I like.

── If we were to use the analogy of excrement, it would seem that when we eat meat, vegetables, and fish, what comes out is plastic. The molecular structures of what is absorbed and what comes out are completely different. In the past, my work reflected a slightly omnivorous feel, but recently the trend I just mentioned has become stronger. I think this is linked to the time when I started using video.

This contradicts the fact that I'm currently being interviewed, but I've been conscious of not wanting to reveal myself over the years.

──Why do you hate being found out?

Actually, I'm really small. What I want to write about is something bigger than myself.

── Ah, if you create your work using only the food you eat as nutrition, the ingredients in your work will be the same as you.

I've probably never created anything like a daily life drama before, but when I was a student, I think I thought I could do it with just my sense. As it became more and more visible to the public, and as more and more people watched it, I started to think that taste alone wasn't enough. I wanted to create something stronger.

Takashi Yamamoto

── I think "Little Girl X" is a work with many different strengths, but one of the keys was the ending. A young man who finally found his enemy but was unable to take action, hits himself repeatedly with the hammer he was holding, and the blood spreads all over the area, turning into a sea.The story is projected on the screen as a text. However, all the letters were in hiragana, and the story suddenly took on a picture book-like tone, giving it a deeper level of universality. That proves that Yamamoto has a strong affinity between fiction and non-fiction.

I have absolutely no objection to that (the difference between fiction and non-fiction). People in theater these days -- I'm also a theater person (lol). ──A lot of people have complexes about stories, and I feel like that's why the theater world is moving towards structuralism. I like both story and structure, and I believe in the power of fiction, so when I create a scene where people fly through the sky, I believe that I can make it work within the story without actually hanging them. I don't think I could have done that last part if I hadn't used a projector to project the text. In terms of matching what I wanted to do and the method, it was a ending that could only have been possible with ``Little Girl X''.

── In the video, the actors do not perform against the backdrop of text and photographs, but rather the text and photographs and actors stand side by side, or rather, they are on equal footing, and they influence each other as antagonistic elements. How long has this idea been around?

I did a piece in Kyoto called ``The Assassin from Ganymede'' (October 2011), and it was actually very much the essence of Hanchuu today. At that time, I tried to make actors move in the video as a story in the world of RPG, but the frustration I experienced led me to the next step. I think this could be done better. When I was working on Ganymede, I was thinking about 2D, 3D, and 4D much more seriously than I do now. The relationship and possibilities between planes and solids. This may be a little off-topic, but for ``Hanchuyuu's Space Adventure 3D'' (August 2011), which was released at the Ophthalmology Gallery, there was no video footage, but we put a lot of thought into having the actors perform two-dimensional movements. I did.

Hanchu Yusei “Assassin from Ganymede” 2011/© Hanchu Yusei

Hanchu Yusei “Assassin from Ganymede” 2011/© Hanchu Yusei

Replacing the story ── Exposing cultural differences that can be a hindrance to progress ──

── Now that we've talked about movement, we can finally talk about the work that will be performed at TPAM this time. I understand that it is a dance version of "Little Girl X" co-produced with a Thai company called Democrazy Theater. Is that okay?

It's a dance piece.

── When you say “Dance Piece”, do you mean that the only performers are dancers?

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

*All names are nicknames. Thai people are given a nickname along with their official name from the time they are born, and this is their main nickname.

Production scene in Thailand/Photography: Takutaku Yamamoto

Production scene in Thailand/Photography: Takutaku Yamamoto

── Who will be co-directing?

Tam is a choreographer, director, and dancer, and it seems he sometimes writes the texts himself. Maybe 2 or 3 years older than me? He is a very intelligent and well-bred gentleman, but his thoughts and the things he tries to do are very outlaws.

── How are Tam-san and Yamamoto-san working together now?

The foundation is already completed. If the base is like a vessel, we are thinking together about what kind of water to put in it.

── It's a little hard to imagine adapting ``Little Girl X'' into a dance version.

Today is the third week since I arrived in Thailand, and before I arrived, they had replaced the play with movement. It's not mime, it's a process of physically expressing language taken from a play, and from what I've seen, there's nothing wrong with that.

This is a little off-topic, but the reason why Tam wanted to make "Little Girl It seems like I'm in a situation where I can't say anything. It's a speech control issue. He has an awareness of the issue. In other words, when we chose the expression dance, it was intended to be a statement of our intentions as ``we who don't talk,'' and I fully agreed with that, so I thought, ``If that's the case, let's make a dance piece.'' However, if you do that, the story becomes less and less necessary. For a while, I felt a sense of crisis, that there was no point in my existence, that there was no need for the text to be ``Little Girl X,'' and it was painful.

── It feels like Little Girl X was swallowed up by their ideology.

Moreover, I couldn't imagine it going well. Of course, Tam has standards and various philosophies, but at first I don't understand them, and all I can do is talk about my image of the first performance. Then he said, ``But that doesn't mean it's a collaboration.'' Of course, I also wanted to collaborate, so we had a quiet fight like that for about a week. But one day, he drew a diagram and explained it to me. ``Right now, the work is at this stage, and this is what I want to aim for.Now that I understand the elements of the story you mentioned, I want to make sure that they intertwine well with the structure I'm thinking of.'' When I saw that, I realized that Little Girl I'm currently working towards that goal.

── It seems like Mr. Yamamoto is able to grasp things visually through drawings. I have a specific question, but how do you project text from a projector?

there is. I also think about the quality of the characters. The place name ``Shinjuku Gyoen'' appears because it was originally written in Japanese, but the Thai actors do not understand that. I want to take advantage of that difference. Or, by playing a character that is a symbol of Japan, a Thai actor is trying to expose the layers of culture.

── It seems like the sense of crisis has completely changed, and the collaboration is deepening all at once.

That's right (laughs). Another thing I'm thinking about is that Thailand has something like ``12 rules for being Thai.'' It was decided when the military staged a coup d'état, and had 12 items such as ``1. You must respect the king.'' I'm planning to impose something similar on my actors. It's a system that binds your identity. If the overall flow is vertical, that has already been done, so what we are thinking about is horizontal equipment. As ``Little Girl I'll go. I think it can be said to be a horizontal spear that stops the story, because there must be something that can be seen by it. Also, although I say it's a dance piece, it's not really a dance at all. The choreography is completely in Tam's hands, but he says that he's tired of pretty dances and that it's all about incorporating everyday movements.

Takashi Yamamoto

── In your imagination, as an extension of that, do you think the finished product will be a work that can be called ``Little Girl X''?

I think we have to protect that to the utmost. At first, we didn't have that vision at all, but now Tam and I are aiming for that.

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