Prepping in Hiroshima: Day 3

DAY 3: Tuesday 21st April

Money… So although we’ve had a day without workshops, it has allowed us to think about money. Although we’ve got to the second stage of this process – which I call Prepping (Stage 1 being foraging for material) – after this the money that Marigold has raised, runs out. After Sundays workshop we had a meeting with Ahiko from the Aster Plaza Theatre, who explained that in order to apply for a grant which would pay for the theatre space and technical time, we need to show that the piece will be performed outside Hiroshima.

Immediately phone calls were made. Although meetings are quite long, things happen quickly. A phone call to Tokyo produced two possibilities, another to Jure – a town nearby – a third. Any of these would meet the requirements of the funders. While phone calls were being made, a man who had turned up for the workshop was offering to become the stage manager. He explained he helped run a performing company, he had skills, possibly a crew, maybe even access to some kit. Dates were exchanged and then he offered his business card. I reproduce it here.

Yes, we have a Ninja stage manager.

By Tuesday morning, the Tokyo and Jure spaces were booked. We met with the Aster Plaza to give an update and discuss the technical budget. Finger crossed, it looks like we have a venue.

We then started talking about lights, lighting designers, sound, sound designers and making spaces. At this point I should introduce the redoubtable Ogasawara San. She has been key to the project so far – she seems to have a finger in every theatrical pie in this area. She has found participants and rehearsal space, places to eat and places to meet. Now she hits the phone. In two phone calls we have a professional lighting designer and a student sound editor – and fees have been agreed. But it’s all still speculative. We need to find £5,000 minimum, ideally £10,000. If we don’t we will have no set, no costumes, no fees for the professional artists, no travel costs, no marketing.

I stroll to the evening workshop crossing one of the many bridges, over the river I can see the Aster Plaza Theatre. It looks big – but it houses a library, making spaces, a youth hostel in which we’re staying and a multi-purpose space I have nicknamed the Silver Box where, hopefully in August, we will perform.

This evening we are to look at wartime games and play. It’s a smaller group – it will be in the weekdays as people have other commitments, but there are more than we had hoped. Ogasawara San had promised 8 – 5 adults, 1 young person and 2 children. In the room, excluding us, we are 12, 6 adults, 2 young people and 4 children. Plus, we have James, a professor of Applied Theatre from Manchester (no pressure).

We start with a Japanese team choosing game. No-one can remember all the words, so google is deployed and the lyrics written up on the blackboard. Then we take hand in two lines facing each other, and chant. As we chant we move forwards and backwards threatening to kick the other team and informing them who we are choosing from their side. The chant ends with a Haka-like facial grimace. Then the two named people play Jan-Ken (Rock, Scissors, Paper, Stone), and the loser has to join the opposing team. This is a good game – it looks great, it’s joyful and it plays out conflict. Good foraging.

We go on to skipping, hop-scotch, tightrope walking and marbles. Then the girls play cats cradle and that skipping in elastic game while the boys make sticks from newspaper and fight with them.

We’re in a different room this evening, it’s noisier, and the floor is shiny and slippy. I start to realise that moving this into sharing testimony is going to be tricky. Nevertheless I divide everyone into three groups and hand out some extracts we have chosen. They are not pieces about play or games directly, but I ask each group to include an element of play in their re-telling. It’s one of those ideas that had felt fine when we planned it, but seems impossible now I explain it. But the groups take up the challenge. They talk for longer than before. James is in a group which hardly speaks English, but he holds his own through miming ideas. And they are the first on to their feet.

One group happens to have landed the 2 most boisterous children. Hibiki (m) and Satzsuki (f) and they don’t really want to think about the story, their feet want to run, their legs want to jump. Their story includes two children playing tag not knowing that their mother and father are dead. I suggest to the group that they don’t take the obvious route of Hibiki and Satsuki playing the children but might come up with a more interesting casting. Nevertheless I see that in all the groups the children sit back and wait for the big people to come up with the ideas and tell them what to do.

The groups share a rough sketch of their ideas. We have a circus that shows the post-war rebuilding of the electricity pylons in the city. A school playing soldiers and nurses. And the children playing tag, with Hibiki and Satsuki playing the adults. They giggle while they act – are they embarrassed to act adults ? Or are they excited by the idea ? Whichever, their giggling breaks the frame or spell or whatever it is that compels us to use our imagination as we watch. After everyones feedback I ask them if they can try to stay in the zone next time.

The groups work on finishing touches and show again. This time they perform in the middle of the room – in the round. And this time I watch the watchers. Really I have no idea how the text is sitting with the physical images that are being presented, but monitoring the audiences expression reveals all. By and large people are rapt. Smiling back, apparently engrossed in the story being told. When Hibiki and Satsuki play the adults they remain concentrated, not stiff but natural and fluent, completely in the situation. At the end of the session I seek them out to thank them. Today Yasuko remarked on their moment as adults, dead adults played as children.

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