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Summer’s door

Poetic plots with rap flava

by Nobuko Tanaka

“Natsu no Tobira (Door to Summer),” a play by Osaka-based theater company Ishinha, premiered at the Cervantino Arts Festival in Mexico in October 2005 before touring Brazil. Ishinha is now back in its homeland for its Japan debut — limited to five performances in Osaka only.

Since being founded in 1970 as Nihon Ishinha by Yukichi Matsumoto, the company has largely worked in the Kansai area, only debuting in Tokyo in 1991 with “Shonen Gai (Boy’s Town).” Ishinha’s performances are characterized by the company’s unique “Jan Jan Opera” style. For the temporary move to the capital, the play was performed in the then-deserted district of Shiodome. For those shows, 100 people spent a month building a set recalling the shantytowns of old Japan.

As well as generally being staged in the open air, the other key feature of the “jan jan” style is the way its poetic plots are delivered in verse with a strong Osaka dialect by groups of the 30-odd-strong cast speaking simultaneously. At times it can sound like a rap musical.

Unusually for this company, but perhaps wise in view of the looming typhoon season, “Natsu no Tobira” will be presented indoors, at Umeda Arts Hall in Osaka — the first time in three years that they will have performed with a roof over their heads.

Describing his approach to this fantasy story of a girl who meets her dead younger brother, the director Matsumoto said in a recent magazine interview that he wanted to express the blinding summer sunlight and its shadows, creating a monochrome world on a summer’s day on the stage.

“Natsu no Tobira” runs from July 14-17 at the Umeda Arts Hall, an 8-minute walk from JR Osaka Station and a 3-minute walk from Umeda Station on the Hankyu Line. Tickets are 3,000 yen and 5,000 yen. For more details, visit www.ishinha.com