enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館


Chapter 4: The Puppet Theatre as Grotesque Yet Deeply Meaningful

  It is not unusual for masterpieces of the puppet theatre to be created by people who do not make their living through the puppet theatre. Often, the goal is a form of expression unique to humans yet that is impossible for humans to perform.
  For example, the play ‘Aoi Uma (Blue Horse)’ by Minoru Becchaku, which was first performed in 1972 by the puppet theatre company Pook, tells the story of a blind man suspected of stealing apples and whose older sister, in order to prove his innocence, slits open his abdomen and declares, ‘There! Look at that! Put your hand inside and search for yourself. Are there any apples in there? Well, are there?’ In the end, the older sister is arrested for murder as a result of her actions and receives the death penalty.
  Shuji Terayama’s ‘Kyojin Kyoiku (The Education of a Madman)’, which was first performed in 1962 by the Hitomi-za theatre company, tells the story of the search for which member of a family is the ‘crazy person’. The other family members who view the daughter Ran with suspicion say, ‘She’s assimilated [into the family] by clinging to us and twisting us, and now she’s beginning to transform into a doll’. Finally, the family members all line up their faces and hands to form a ‘Family Doll’, and with one blow of an axe, Ran’s head is chopped off. The curtain falls after the stage direction saying, ‘The puppeteers who manipulated the puppet stand up, just as expected, fold up the puppet and then the puppeteers leave the stage’.
  In all of the examples mentioned above, the works are self-referential and include grotesque portrayals that are only possible with puppets. The puppet theatre takes full advantage of the significance that playwrights place on the fact that those who will be performing on stage are not human actors but instead puppets. It then presents the question of what the significance of that is to us, the viewers.