enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館


【静かな演劇】【Quiet Theatre】

Unlike previous theatrical performances sending their energy to the outside, the “quiet theatre” emerging in the early 1990s directed its energy inward. Major events take place off-stage, conversations are held at volumes not much louder than daily conversation, multiple conversations take place at the same time, and the use of purposefully ambiguous pronouns are all noticeable conventions of the genre. However, it is more important to note that, according to one of the pioneers of the Quiet Theatre Iwamatsu Ryo, “the primary impetus for human action is usually one’s reaction to the words or actions of another”. This concept acts as the supporting pillar that justifies all of the action taking place in a Quiet Theatre play and is thus its most significant characteristic. The rise in popularity for this new genre of theatre marks the beginning of an age where contemporary Japanese theatre enters an age of quiet introspection. The initial trigger of Quiet Theatre was the collapse of the economic “bubble” within which Japan had prospered for so long. Following this, the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, the Tokyo Subway Sarin Attack, multiple simultaneous terrorist strikes in the US, the Great Tohoku Earthquake, the failure of the 1st Fukushima nuclear reactor and the Yamayuri Care Home Incident have all served as stopping points for Quiet Theatre. Today, this legacy is carried on by the hands of theatre makers who find their productions increasingly infiltrated by the lasting influences of these catastrophes.

Quiet Theatre was simultaneously pioneered by theatre makers Iwamastu Ryo, Miyazawa Akio, and Hirata Oriza. However, Hirata in particular is notable for having organized the theories and methods of the theatre form in such a way that made it accessible to all, and named his newly organized theatre form “Contemporary Colloquial Theatre” (Gendai Kougo Engeki). Written works such as “Hirata Oriza’s Works 1 – For Contemporary Colloquial Theatre” (1995) and “Introduction to Theatre” (1998) are notable for being the first major work on theatre theory since the theatre makers of the so called “underground generation” (Suzuki Tadashi, Sato Makoto and Ota Shogo). Written in plain terms and with a relatively low cost, these texts proved to be highly influential for those interested in theatre but unsure of what to do. Hirata’s popularity among the youth of the early 2000s caused the birth of many theatre makers later referred to as “Oriza’s Chidren”.