enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館

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Making of Minoru Betsuyaku: From His Unpublished First Play to the Soyosoyo Tribe

His Prophetic Works

Betsuyaku always kept a penetrating eye on the social structures that yield crimes. Therefore, he often wrote works that predicted real incidents and events.
For example, in 1979, Betsuyaku wrote the play Mother, Mother, Mother. This work was inspired by the collective suicide of a cult called the Peoples Temple that occurred in Jonestown, Guyana the previous year. This structure of a closed community of a visually impaired charismatic guru and the fanatical believers surrounding him that Betsuyaku depicted became a shocking reality in Japan 16 years later with the Tokyo subway sarin attack and the other incidents involving Aum Shinrikyo. Betsuyaku did not overlook this incident caused by a cult group in a distant country as a strange event unrelated to our daily lives, but instead framed it structurally and correctly identified the mechanisms that would create a new Peoples Temple in Japanese society.
In 2015, Betsuyaku was inspired by the Amagasaki Serial Murder Incident that was uncovered three years beforehand and wrote Ano Ko wa Dare, Dare desho-ne (Who is that child, I wonder who?). The structure of a complete stranger cunningly entering a certain household to gradually gain control over them, in the end causing violence and murder among family members is identical to the structure of absurd theatre in which strangers sneakily enter into a household or community, which is the kind of thing Betsuyaku had been writing since the beginning; you could even say that the incident trailed after Betsuyaku’s plays.
Finally, Machi to Hikosen (town and airship), which depicted a town isolated from the outside world due to the suspension of all means of transport following the spread of an infectious disease, could be said to have predicted the present-day situation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who believed that the airship casting an eerie shadow on the town was their saviour fired shells at it, but the people all died because of the white powder that the airship rained down on the town from the bottom of its hull. The airship, representing both salvation and death, may have been Betsuyaku’s Godot.

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