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Friday, March 28, 2008

Mayakovsky play sets future in our hands

The great Russian playwright and futurist poet Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930) wrote the 60-role play "Mystery Bouffe" 90 years ago.

An avant-garde and labyrinthine Noah's Ark story set after disasters have laid waste the Earth, the plot centers on the confrontation of two opposing new world orders after a cataclysmic flood — one a "clean" upper-class bourgeois society; the other an "unclean" working-class proletarian one.

In the survivors' ark where the tale transpires, one of these groups finally conquers the other — and so the ruined world.

Simple as all this may seem, the director/script adapter Masahiro Kiuchi grumbled in his blog that "the play presents the proletarians as heroes, but how can I do this because I know about such things, for example, as the Industrial Revolution, world wars, postmodernism and the collapse of socialism? So how to present this to today's audiences is the key of the play."

Fortunately for Kiuchi, though, Mayakovsky stated in the preface to this play: "In the future, all persons performing, presenting, reading, or publishing 'Mystery Bouffe' should change the content, making it contemporary, immediate and up-to-the-minute."

Kiuchi and Theatre Project Tokyo, together with a cast of 27 and more than 100 different costumes with live jazz music, spent an unusually long time in workshops getting to grips with this complicated work, and how they present it now for 21st-century Japan is definitely something to see.

"Mystery Bouffe" runs till March 31 at the Benisan Pit Theatre, a five-minute walk from Morishita Station on the Oedo and Toei Shinjuku subway lines or an eight-minute walk from JR Ryogoku Station. Tickets are ¥5,000 (or ¥3,000 for students).

For more details, call tpt at (03) 3635-6355, or visit www.tpt.co.jp

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