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Making of Minoru Betsuyaku: From His Unpublished First Play to the Soyosoyo Tribe

An Interest in Premodern Performing Arts

Since his early days of writing plays, Betsuyaku was influenced by the absurd theatre of Samuel Beckett and others. At the same time, he was also interested in the literary works of authors like Kenji Miyazawa and Shichiro Fukazawa as well as children’s songs, nursery rhymes, songs, and old poems. He actively incorporated them into his creations and further refined the world of drama by combining the two. After the mid-1970s, he frequently used passages and idioms from songs in titles, and this trend became even more pronounced after the late 1990s. Major works include Aabukutatta, Niitatta (bubbling and boiling) (1976), Mae Mae Katatsumuri (dance, snail, dance) (1978), and Kinran Donsu no Obi Shimenagara (despite the sash of the gold-brocaded satin damask) (1997).
What Betsuyaku sought to explore through the children’s songs and old poems was the feeling of performing arts that has existed since ancient times, which also provided him with hints for doubting ‘modernity’. His interest in premodern performing arts is also evident in the spectacle of the sick in one of his first representative works, Zo (the elephant). In the background, there was a trend that emerged in the 1960s of ‘overcoming modernity’, using premodern culture and performing arts as a foothold, but in the case of Betsuyaku, this was not limited to that time period as he continued to search for the original form of words in premodern performing arts throughout his life.
His lifework of the ‘Soyosoyo tribe’ series may be termed the culmination of that investigation. What Betsuyaku sought to achieve in this work was a victory over words. According to Betsuyaku, two kinds of words existed in the Edo period: ‘masurao-buri’ words, which were logical and structural, and ‘taoyame-buri’ words, which were sensuous and exemplified by onomatopoeia. The taoyame-buri words perished with the modernization of society, but Betsuyaku attempted to revive them through his depictions of the ‘Soyosoyo tribe’, a group of people with aphasia.
In this exhibition, you will see manuscripts transcribing children’s songs such as ‘Hanayome Ningyo’ (bridal doll) and ‘Jugoya Otsukisan’ (full moon) as well as materials related to works incorporating songs and such into their titles. With this, we want to introduce some aspects of the interest that Betsuyaku continued to have in premodern performing arts and words as we confirm the process leading to the ‘Soyosoyo tribe’ series.

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