enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館

Online Exhibition

Making of Minoru Betsuyaku: From His Unpublished First Play to the Soyosoyo Tribe

Constructing Dramaturgy

Betsuyaku joined the Waseda Free Stage in 1958 at the same time as he was admitted to Waseda University, thus starting out on the path of theatre. He started reading Beckett around 1960, right when Waiting for Godot was first performed in Japan by Bungakuza. Thus, he came across Beckett just as he was starting out as a playwright. It is well known that Betsuyaku was greatly influenced by Beckett, but these materials reveal that it was in his discovery of ‘theatrical structure’.
Important here is ‘Beckett Kukan no Kozo’ (structure of Beckett space) (two sheets of manuscript paper). ‘II. Engeki to Sono Buntai’ (theatre and its styles) in Kotoba e no Senjutsu (word strategies) (Karasu Shobo, 1972), which was a collection of commentaries submitted to the amateur magazine Kikan Hyoron (quarterly commentaries), contains commentaries on Kobo Abe, Arrabal, and others, all of them touching on Waiting for Godot. These notes were probably the basis for this. Across two pages, we find analyses of the structure and language of Beckett space, excerpts from Kobo Abe’s Tomodachi (friends), and references to Arrabal’s A Picnic on the Battlefield. This shows that Betsuyaku was simultaneously comparing Kobo Abe and Arrabal in his efforts to uncover Beckett’s theatrical structure and apply it to his own dramaturgy.
Another notebook entitled ‘Abe Kobo Tomodachi’ (Kobo Abe’s Friends) is also thought to be notes for a critique of that book, entitled ‘Engeki ni okeru Gengo Kino ni tsuite: Abe Kobo Tomodachi yori’ (on linguistic function in theatre: from Kobo Abe’s Friends) (first published in Kikan Hyoron, 1972). Similarly, in the commentary ‘Shogekijo Undo wo Furikaette’ (looking back on the small theatre movement) (first published in Kokusai Bunka (international culture), 1969), Betsuyaku writes that Godot is a play where ‘anti-theatrical structure betrays theatrical expression’. This notebook shows that he was trying to examine Tomodachi based on that discovery. However, as he concludes with the sentence ‘There was no structure in Japan’, we see that he was critical of Tomodachi.
The manuscript of the ‘Yattekita Godot’ (Godot has come) seems to be the finished version of the play included in Yattekita Godot, published by Ronsosha in 2010. If we read the afterword, we can sense the consistent love he felt for Godot as he came up with this work as a way to restore the humour of Waiting for Godot, even as he was well aware that the arrival of Godot was a ‘prohibited move’.

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