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A robot-themed theater production in Kyoto has attracted packed houses since opening in 2012.

“Gear,” a 75-minute nonspeaking performance that combines music, projected images and human movement, tells the story of humanoid “Roboroids” who continue to make dolls at the assembly line of an abandoned toy factory.

Since the acting parts are nonverbal, the show is popular among people who don’t understand Japanese and people with hearing impairments, with many coming in groups, according to producer Keito Kohara.

The show has been performed some 1,300 times since its opening.

The cast for the twice-a-day performances that take place most days of the week includes mimes, break dancers, magicians and jugglers.

Members of the production crew represent a variety of unique personalities. For example, designer Takaaki Tsujino, 51, who has worked with stars such as Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, is in charge of costumes, while popular manga artist Akihiro Yamada, 59, produced the image illustrations in the show.

Meanwhile, there is no actual director behind the production. In fact, On Kyakuyou, the name listed as Gear’s director on its program pamphlets and website, is a fictional character with its name being a pun upon “okyakusama,” the Japanese word for guest and customer.

The crew says it listens to the comments and response from the audience, and revises the show’s content from time to time. “Harmony” is the performance’s theme, according to producer Kohara, 56.

“In the face of the growing trends around the world, such as of marginalizing certain social groups or forcibly determining what is right and wrong, I wanted to convey, on stage without words, the feelings of give and take as well as mutual recognition,” Kohara says.

An underlying element, he added, is the Japanese way of “ambiguity” under which diverse groups of people have coexisted.

The show is housed in Art Complex 1928, a historical building that has been officially designated by Kyoto as a Tangible Cultural Property. A visit to the vintage building, which includes an art gallery and other properties, is an attraction in itself.

For more information, visit www.gear.ac.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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