The Tokyo-based Ryuzanji Company has been pushing the boundaries of contemporary drama since it was founded by director/actor Show Ryuzanji (whose real name is Shoji Fujioka) in 1984. Now, it is coproducing a huge musical with Toshima Ward centered on the northern Tokyo hub of Ikebukuro.
Ryuzanji has enlisted the help of fellow directors Tengai Amano and Yu Murai for the project, which is to realize — with a cast of 53, including newcomers and veterans — a 21st-century version of “Chikyu Kudosetsu (Hollow Earth Theory)” that does justice to the genius of its creator, avant-garde dramatist Shuji Terayama (1935-83).
Since Terayama conceived his work as a street performance, Ryuzanji’s version begins in Naka-Ikebukuro Park before moving into the adjacent Toshima Public Hall where the story really kicks off.
The 65-year-old Ryuzanji, who also acts in this work, said at a recent open rehearsal: “These days, young people go to a theater, quietly take their seats and afterward go back home as if nothing had happened. However, theater should be more liberal, experimental and vulgar. And not only that, but it would be more free if it mixed with other currents such as anime and manga — as well as appeal to local residents. So, this time we’ve tried to reach out to ordinary people in Ikebukuro and in Tokyo — not the usual arty theater-going types.”
“Chikyu Kudosetsu (Hollow Earth Theory)” runs at Toshima Public Hall in Toshima-ku, Tokyo, from Nov. 22-29 (7 p.m., 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday). Tickets cost ¥4,500 in advance and ¥5,000 at the door (¥3,500 for students). For more information, call (03) 5272-1785 or visit www.ryuzanji.com .