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Friday, May 7, 2010

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Work play: "Hotpepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech" looks at the plight of temporary workers. DIETER HARTWIG PHOTO

Showing the drama of Japan's office politics

Special to The Japan Times

Yokohama-based Chelfitsch theater company is currently staging a short Tokyo season prior to a European tour with its highly acclaimed "Hotpepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech," which premiered at the Hebbel am Ufer Theatre (HAU) in Berlin last October.

In 2004, Chelfitsch's avant-garde founder and leader, Hiroki Okada, made a short, experimental dance-theater program titled "Air Conditioner," which featured self-centered workers in an office complaining about the temperature of an air conditioner — oblivious to the anxieties of office temp workers facing contract renewals. That piece, which was a finalist for the Toyota Choreography Award 2005, spread Chelfitsch's name throughout Japan and the international performing-arts scene. Building on that, the company has since made great inroads into the European stage scene, where it is now well known as a cutting-edge company that portrays the lives of Japanese youth.

Following the initial success in Berlin, Okada added two more short pieces for HAU — "Hotpepper" and "Farewell Speech" — and set each program to different types of music, by artists such as John Cage ("Hotpepper"), John Coltrane ("Farewell Speech"), Stereolab and Tortoise ("Air Conditioner"). Conceived as a triple-bill omnibus program, "Hotpepper" is about those contract workers organizing a farewell party for one of their staff, while "Farewell Speech" covers that worker's parting speech in the office.

"Hotpepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech" runs till May 19 at Laforet Museum Harajuku. For more details, call Precog at (03) 3423-8669 or visit precog-jp.net

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