"It was officially the runaway disaster of 2006. I was really glad that so many people didn't like it at all," laughs 34-year-old Toshiki Okada about his debut at the New National Theater, "Enjoy," which Japan's theater critics voted the year's worst play. The old guards' thumbs down was all the more reactionary coming two years after Okada and his Yokohama-based company Chelfitsch (a combination of "selfish" and "childish taste") was the surprise winner of Japan's most important theatrical accolade, the Kishida Kunio Gikyoku Sho (Kishida Kunio Drama Award), for "Five Days in March."
With the company's young cast dressed down and talking in exaggerated street lingo, slouching around bare stages and delivering long and flat but cutting monologues, it's really no surprise that Okada's work provokes arguments among critics and audiences in Japan. All the while (to the dismay of some), Chelfitsch is being feted in Europe and America, with international bookings crowding its diary.
Last week, in the midst of rehearsals for "Free Time," a new Chelfitsch play that opened yesterday at Super Deluxe in Roppongi, Okada talked to The Japan Times about his vision for theater.