enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館


Children and Modern Society

  What follows is a discussion of works of the modern theatre created mainly by professional theatre companies and which take up the theme of ‘children’. In the midst of rapid social changes that led to major changes in children’s daily lives, what sorts of stories did theatre companies present for children and how did they handle the various social issues portrayed in their plays? While considering these issues, I would also like to consider such problems as how to tell stories about issues such as parent–child relationships, pregnancy, childbirth, and raising children, as well as the difficulties that children face in modern society, and the issue of whether or not they have difficulties.
  In the 21st century, which has been characterised by the information society, low birth rate, and simultaneous ageing of the population, as well as the depopulation of rural areas, it has become increasingly difficult for children to form relationships with others. As more and more children experience anxiety related to making friends at school, the play ‘Tomodachi-Ya (Friend Business)’ (first staged in 2012) performed by the theatre company ‘Urinko’ provides children with an opportunity to search for ways to make ‘true friends’. Today, with the growing instability of Japanese society as people find it more and more difficult to envision the future, children are required to develop flexible skills that are in line with present conditions and nurture a perspective that differs from what used to be thought of as conventional. The play ‘Kurai-tokoro kara Yattekuru (Coming from a Dark Place)’ (first staged in 2012) by the Kanagawa Arts Theatre portrays another world that exists behind the one we normally live in. The play ‘The Santa Claus Conference’ (first staged in 2008) by Seinen-dan portrays conversations with children about the existence of Santa Claus.
  Theatre productions that take up the social problems surrounding children are being actively created. The play ‘Big Brother’ (first staged in 2003) by the performing arts group Dora is about juvenile delinquency. Other examples are the play ‘Distance: Our HARMONY’ (first staged in 1999) by the theatre company Tampopo, which takes up the issue of drug dependency, and the play ‘Kimi ha Ikusa ni ittakeredo (You went to war, but...)’ (first staged in 2018) by the Akita Ujaku/Hijikata Yoshi Memorial Seinen-Gekijo, which is about suicide.
  Dramatic works that deal with children from an adult perspective include ‘Single Mothers’ (first staged in 2011) by Nitosha, which takes up the issue of single-parent households; ‘Haha to Wakusei ni tsuite oyobi Jitensuru onna-tachi no kiroku (About Mother and the Planets, and the Record of the Rotating Women)’, which was first staged in 2016 by Parco Produce and which is about women’s issues such as mothers and daughters, marriage, and childbirth; and Hito-no-kakera (‘A Fragment of a Person’), which was first staged in 2004 by the New National Theatre and takes up the issue of the definition of ‘parent and child’.