Asia Series casts F/T's net wide

by Mika Eglinton

Special To The Japan Times

Aiming to foster regional theater links through research, fieldwork and creative exchange, Festival/Tokyo last year launched its new Asia Series, focused then on South Korea. This year it’s the turn of Myanmar, with three artists from the evolving scene there being introduced to F/T 2015 audiences.

Since 2010, when the first elections for generations were held in the country formerly known as Burma, economic development has accompanied freedoms of assembly unknown during decades of military rule. The spread of the Internet has also increased information exchange, new forms of expression and international collaboration.

Against this backdrop, Asia Series 2015 will feature “Roundabout in Yangon,” a program in which three artists in different fields explore the same topic: Myanmar’s identities.

This series at Asahi Art Square in Asakusa — transformed by architect-artist Fumihiko Sano, a specialist in traditional Japanese and Myanmar design — will feature installations, video works and a performance by The Maw Naing, best known for “The Monk,” his realist 2014 coming-of-age film set in present-day Myanmar. In addition, Nyan Lin Htet — who leads the Theatre of the Disturbed — will hold a satirical mirror up to Myanmar society, while musician and producer Thxa Soe will amalgamate electronic club sounds and hsaing waing, folk music often associated with puppet theater.

Meanwhile, other intercultural highlights of F/T 2015 include “Logobi 06,” a dance work featuring artists from the Cote d’Ivoire, Germany and Japan that’s named after logobi — Ivorian slang for “earning a fortune by crafty means.”

As the latest installment in a decade-long series by director Monika Ginters- dorfer and visual artist Knut Klassen, artists in residence at Theatre Bremen in Germany, “Logobi 06” began as an improvisation by male performers with different linguistic and physical vocabularies: Ivorian dancer-choreographer Franck Edmond Yao and Ismaera Takeo Ishii, a multi-disciplinary Japanese dancer. As the pair move in parallel and in conflict on stage, however, audiences may also sense their clamor for peace and satirical stabs at social inequalities.

In contrast to these collaborations, Theatre de la Ville will stop off on a world tour with its Paris production of the theater of the absurd classic “Rhinoceros” by Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco (1909-94), whose anti-realist works written mostly in French describe the absurdity and solitude of human existence.

Dating from 1959, “Rhinoceros” is set in an insular provincial French town whose inhabitants all turn into the eponymous animals — all except for the antihero Berenger, that is. Oddly, then, this Everyman oft-derided for his drinking and laziness is left standing alone against mass hysteria and metamorphosis, shouting, “I’m not capitulating!”

Hence in this staging by the renowned director Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota, “Rhinoceros” — often read as a criticism of the oppressive ideologies of communism, fascism and Nazism — will revive Ionesco’s allegory of totalitarianism for today’s audiences living in an ever more globalized and standardized world.

How long can the individual resist such collective pressure yet remain a functioning self?

“Roundabout in Yangon” and “Logobi 06” run Nov. 13-15 and Nov. 26-29, respectively, at Asahi Art Square in Asakusa, Tokyo. “Rhinoceros” runs Nov. 21-23 at Saitama Arts Theatre. For details, visit

In line with the nationwide state of emergency declared on April 16, the government is strongly requesting that residents stay at home whenever possible and refrain from visiting bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.
Coronavirus banner