Two theatre companies from Japan and India have come together and are putting together a play, keeping the language barrier at bay and learning from each other’s cultures and skills.
They are trying to put various acts together. They are trying to put a play together. Without the knowledge of each other’s language, they are communicating and are preparing for a show!
Some Japanese and Indian artists are rehearsing together in a not-so-small room at The Japan Foundation in the Indian capital, New Delhi. This cultural organisation has brought together Hanchu Yuei and Tadpole Repertory, two theatre companies from Japan and India. Their directors, Suguru Yamamoto and Neel Chaudhuri, are working together, staging the skills they have to show.
Working on his Macbook, Yamamoto is queuing music and digital visuals; Chaudhuri too is busy with his silver machine but often gets up, goes towards the stage and interacts with actors who are both Indian and Japanese. He asks Kan Fukuhara, who is on stage at the moment, to modify his act in a certain way. He then turns to Yamamoto to communicate something. There is no use of language, but the messages are being delivered.
“The language barrier actually did not pose much problem. Although we have a translator with us, we have been managing through actions and emotions. This is theatre after all,” Chaudhuri explains to us. “In fact, no words mean less communication and miscommunication. There has been less talking during the rehearsals and a lot of good work,” he adds.
Hanchu Yuei and Tadpole Repertory have been working on this play since December 2016. They first met three years ago at a theatre festival in Japan. What was a mere spark of an idea, took all this time, collaboration with The Japan Foundation, and slight understanding of each other’s culture to shape up. “I have been to Japan earlier and so has Bikram,” says Chaudhuri, pointing towards actor Bikram Ghosh. “Even Yamamoto had the chance of visiting India earlier,” he adds. Although a few interactions gave the two directors a chance to develop an idea, the real game began only in December when they started putting the elements together.
“There have been a few challenges, but there have also been learning and new experiences,” says Chaudhuri, adding, “It is the first time I am working with digital visuals like this.”
“I also observed and learnt that the way the Japanese actors are physically present on stage is very different from us Indian actors,” says Chaudhuri. “The Indians carry a very natural body language on stage. It is different with us. We try to keep it more dramatic and poised,” explains Fukuhara and then points to his co-actress who his stretching on stage like a ballet dancer, “that’s how,” he exclaims.
Further talking about the differences he noticed between Indian and Japanese ways of performing, he says, “We don’t discuss matters or argue with our director. We just listen to him. This is not the case here.”
Other elements in the play too are reflective of artists from Japan and India. “We are juxtaposing them on each other to make something beautiful,” says Chaudhuri. “It is just like how life in metro cities is, various elements juxtaposed on each other,” he explains, while explaining the theme of the play ‘this will only take several minutes’ which is inspired from city life.
The six actors in the play are strangers who confront themselves and each other, seeking their place and purpose. They struggle with hunger and sickness, love and solitude, their pasts and present, but cannot escape the place they are in right now.
The companies are taking the play to Bengaluru, Mumbai and Pune this January, and will stage it in New Delhi in February. “Hopefully, we will be able to take it Japan too,” says Chaudhuri, and returns to work, preparing for the tour that lies ahead.