F/T Concept

Festival/Tokyo program director Chiaki Soma

Evolving “real”

The theme of the first edition of Festival/Tokyo, the Festival/Tokyo 09 Spring, was “Towards a new real”. For a period of one month, more than 60 000 spectators gathered to see one of the 19 performances divided on 128 shows, engaging more than 500 performers and staff all together. In what way will the Festival/Tokyo 09 Autumn contribute to bring out the feeling of “here and now” shared by the artists and the audience last time?

The festival has moved from spring (February-March) to autumn (October-December). This is how we aim to strengthen our medium- to long-term partnerships with the organizers and supporters in the operation of a stable festival. Launching at the same time as festivals in Seoul and Shanghai, we seek to contribute to the creation and distribution of Asian performing arts on a long-term basis. By this means, it also forms part of an intention to establish the autumn as a “season for Asian performing arts”.

Due to the change of the festival season, year 2009 is exceptional because the festival is held twice, both in spring and autumn. Despite the extremely short preparatory time, spring and autumn forms a pair, both program- and positionwise. We have asked several of the artists for a consecutive participation from spring to autumn in order to emphasize the direction the festival is heading. There is no change to our basic quest, which is to seek the possibilities of theatre as a medium, whose characteristic is the nature of “here and now”. What can the performing arts, a medium that can only be experienced at a certain time and a certain place, provide in an era where manifold media distribute information with ease and at a high speed to the consumers? Where does its strength lie? What role can it play in our everyday lives, and how can it contribute to the community in a time where we find ourselves constantly exposed to the threat of the financial crisis? Confronted with innumerable “reals” reflected by the city of Tokyo, how can we respond through the medium called theatre? With the base in the F/T 09 Spring slogan, “Towards a new real”, we aim to evolve even further in our search for an answer to the above questions.

In order to meet the requirements of our concept, our program consists of 20 different performances. Festival/Tokyo presents 16 of the performances, and co-presents the other 4, which are works playing in the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space at the same time as the festival. 5 of the works presented by the festival are new creations or world premieres, and another 7 are co-productions with Japanese and foreign theaters or theatre companies. 3 of the works are either a recreation or a production of a Japanese version of the performance, emphasizing the festival’s role as a creator of works of performing art as well.

In our pursuit of a real yet to be discovered, we produce and present a group of works displaying transcendental images. Creating a sensation in the spring with his first Tokyo performance – Hey Girl! - Romeo Castellucci’s re-interpretation of Dante’s “La Divina Commedia” against a contemporary metaphysical background confronts us with an “Inferno”, “Purgatorio” and “Paradiso” yet to be seen. Ishinha leader Yukichi Matsumoto is known for his bold imagination and use of space, especially in his venturous outdoor performances. In his new creation he invites the audience for a walk in his alley (“roji”). Attracting attention in the spring with his “Transfer Student”, director Norimizu Ameya this time confronts Sarah Kane’s legendary work, “Psychosis 4.48”, in which the antagonism between text, body and sound will lead us to see beyond the conventional borders of theatre. Further, Niwa Gekidan Penino leader Kuro Tanino draws his personal picture of the dark side of human psychology using surreal images sometimes bordering on the extreme. Displaying the raw physical presence of humans and animals, these artists will lead us to a “real yet to be seen”, a “real” transcending reality, to a world where the five senses are violently stimulated. The above-mentioned works are all new creations, in which the festival is deeply committed either as the producer or the co-producer.

Another line continuing from the spring is the documentary trend. In the spring festival the works featuring non-professional actors became the focus of attention. The autumn program also assembles documentary theatre applying elements from the reality found outside of the theater building. For their third Japan performance Rimini Protokoll leaves the theater behind and invites the audience to take a seat in the back of a converted truck in a tour performance unveiling the flow of goods in the harbor city, and the everyday life of a trucker. The American artist Chris Kondek exposes the audience to the reality of world economics by connecting the theater to the stock market in real-time. Port B leader Akira Takayama installs a temporary video box in front of the theater where the experiences of individuals and groups unfolding on a daily basis is presented as theatre works and video installations.
On the other hand, The Lebanese artists Rabih Mroué and Lina Saneh use the narrative structure of a famous movie to blur the border between reality and fiction in their critical view on reality in contemporary Lebanese society. These are all works that deliberately deviate from the thought that theatre is fiction presented on the stage. A paradox as it may seem, these are works that together with the audience challenge to seek the social potential of the theatre. Meanwhile, as the name suggest, Shu Matsui’s theatre company Sample is “sampling” fragments from the reality of contemporary society, which they sublimate into fictional stories. Now we would like to invite the spectators to interpret how “the real in front of our eyes” can continue to evolve by contrasting fiction with documentary.

In the field of dance we introduce Bruno Beltrão, a talent raised in the streets of Brazil. His unparalleled choreography, in which he deconstructs the codes and languages of hip-hop before he then reconstructs it, is expected to break new grounds in the field of contemporary dance. From Japan we present the bold recreation of Ikuyo Kuroda’s work that made her break into the Japanese world of contemporary dance. Challenging the limits of the dancers bodies, this performance has later become known as one of her representative works. By presenting another masterpiece from Amagatsu Ushio’s Sankai Juku’s repertory, the Butoh’s DNA is passed on to the next generation. As a response to the current state of affairs where the dance world is dominated by introvert works referring to nothing but themselves, this is a powerful repertory seeking for a new vision of dance yet to come, that can only be found in the indigenous possibilities of impulsive physical expression.

This time we have improved the function and programs held at the F/T Station, a casual place for everybody participating in the festival to gather. Like in the spring Kim Itoh’s “Oyaji café” (wise old guy café) will open, featuring new members and a new repertory to entertain the clients! In addition events by “faifai” will be held every weekend “to cheer up Ikebukuro”, as well as various other programs including audience participation that will contribute to heat up the two months of the festival. Continuing from F/T 09 Spring, Theatre/University, where works “born and raised” in the universities confront each other, is expected to present new exchange and dialogue.

The festival is a platform where expressions of what is truly real and truly urgent of our generation, a response to the reality in which we live, are shared. A place open to all people. From 2010 and onwards Festival/Tokyo is scheduled to be held every year in the autumn.
There we will continue to ask questions regarding theatre and society, and the expression of our present generation.

Chiaki Soma

She graduated from the Waseda University of Tokyo (BA in Literature), then she majored in Arts Management and Cultural Politics at the DESS “Cultural Development and Project Management” (MA) of Lyon Lumiere University and had experiences in the artist in Residence and alternative art space in France. Since 2002, she has been working for Tokyo International Arts Festival producing many international collaborative projects and symposia with foreign artists and organizations. In 2006, she founded a new creative space for the performing arts, “Yokohama Arts Platform: Steep Slope Studio” in collaboration with Yokohama City, where she is currently the director. She is also an invited lecturer of Global COE (Educational Program supported by Theatre Museum) of the Waseda University. After having held the position as the program director of the 2008 Tokyo International Arts Festival, she is assigned the same position at Festival/Tokyo.