With a title that combines the words “China” and “America,” 2013’s multi award-winning play “Chimerica” will have its Japan premiere at SEPT with Tamiya Kuriyama directing.
Following its world premiere at the Almeida Theatre in London in May 2013, this smash-hit, socially aware work by the now 34-year-old English playwright Lucy Kirkwood soon transferred to the West End and went on to scoop five Laurence Olivier Awards in 2014 — for Best New Play, Best Director (Lyndsey Turner), Best Lighting, Best Sound and Best Set Design.
Despite its light and often humorous dialogue-based style, “Chimerica” is based on events surrounding the shocking Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing in 1989, although its dynamic structure enables it to come and go through space and time.
In this production, one of Japan’s top contemporary director, Tamiya Kuriyama — a former artistic director of the New National Theatre — oversees a splendid cast featuring many renowned actors on both stage and screen.
The play opens at a photo exhibition in Manhattan, New York, in 2013, where visitors’ eyes are riveted on a particular shot from Tiananmen Square taken 24 years before by a young American named Joe Schofield.
The photo shows a Chinese man in a white shirt who is holding two shopping bags as he stands in front of a line of tanks.
It’s a picture of heroism.
It’s a picture of protest.
It’s a picture of one country taken by an outsider from another country.
From there the story goes back and forth between New York in 2012 and 1989 in China as its photographer hero, Joe (played by Kei Tanaka), his Chinese friend Zhang Line (Shinnosuke Mitsushima), and others around them are swept up in a wave of fate generated by that moment captured in the photo.
The play’s title, “Chimerica,” comes from a word coined by Scots-born Harvard University history professor Niall Ferguson to represent the symbiotic relationship between America and China — a portmanteau term that the New York Times selected as one of its “Vogue Words of 2009.” Yet though the Tiananmen Square protests are the play’s core context, its energetic reach encompasses many issues facing the people around the world today.
In those protests in June 1989, members of the public, including students calling for China’s democratization, clashed with forces of the state. As Joe, an 19-year-old tourist, looked on he took a photo of a man with shopping bags in each hand standing in front of a tank. His image, which came to be known as “The Tank Man,” was soon making headlines around the world — but it isn’t until 23 years later that Joe’s old Chinese friend, Zhang Lin, tells him the shocking truth about that man. From then on he begins to trace the man’s life after Tiananmen Square.
Cast & Creative
Written by Lucy Kirkwood
Translation by Noriko Odajima
Directed by Tamiya Kuriyama
Kei Tanaka, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Kana Kurashina, Hidekazu Mashima,
Saori Seto, Ryosuke Ikeoka, Tetsuro Ishibashi, Fusako Urabe,
Mayuno Yasogawa, Eriko Toyama, Hitomi Ando, Masakazu Akino, Wakako Tanabe,
Yoshiyuki Kaneko, Shizue Masuko, Akira Otaka
Copyright Coordination: Theatre Rights ltd.
Comments from Cast & Creative
◆Comments from the director, Tamiya Kuriyama
What was the year 1989 like?
With the death of Emperor Hirohito, the Imperial Era in Japan changed from Showa to Heisei; that autumn, the Berlin Wall fell; while in Tiananmen Square there was terrible violence as troops stood in the way of a movement towards democracy.
So altogether, 1989 was an eventful year of historical importance, and this play is a drama that comes and goes between 1989 Beijing and modern America.
Precisely because we now live in a somewhat aimless and ambiguous time, I want to jump into this past and take a good look at what that single photograph — of a lone, unarmed man facing off against a tank in China’s capital — really says, and what it really portrays.
◆Comments from Kei Tanaka, who plays Jo
In this production of “Chimerica,” there are some actors I’m familiar with and others I’m meeting for the first time. It’s also the first time I’ve worked with the director Tamiya Kuriyama, even though many of my senior actor friends have long urged me not to miss the chance to do so. So, though I have seen some plays he directed, I’m incredibly excited to be in the team creating this great piece of theatre with him, and I hope we can draw audiences in so they become completely caught up in it. I’ll certainly be doing my best!
◎= Post-performance talk will be held.※Holders of tickets for the performance in question may attend.
◆=Cameras will be installed in the audience area for recording purposes.
■ = Stage Explanation for People with Visual Disabilities
Advance application required. Free. Before the 13:00 performance on Sat 23 February, we will explain aspects that are difficult to understand without seeing them, such as stage settings and costumes. People with a ticket for this performance may attend.
A childcare service is normally available for performances staged at Setagaya Public Theatre and Theatre Tram for which advance tickets are sold.
|Charge:||¥2,200 per child|
|Eligibility:||Children aged over 6 months and up to 9 years of age|
|Applications:||Tel. 03-5432-1526 Setagaya Public Theatre
You may reserve childcare services up to noon of the day 3 days before the desired reservation time, but when the number of children registered reaches capacity, applications will closed. So please make your reservation well in advance. Also, please consult with the theatre regarding children with special needs.
|Subcontractor:||Kids’ Room Tinker bell Sancha|
Both Setagaya Public Theatre and Theatre Tram are equipped with wheelchair spaces to allow visitors to watch performances from their wheelchairs. However, as capacity is limited, use of wheelchair spaces is by reservation only.
|Charge:||10% discount on the corresponding area ticket charge (plus up to one attendant free of charge)|
|Applications:||Tel. 03-5432-1515 Theatre Ticket Centre|
Wheelchair spaces may be reserved up to 19:00 on the day before the desired date, but when the number of reservations reaches capacity, applications will be closed. So please make your reservation well in advance. Also, for wheelchair users who prefer to watch the performance from a regular seat, the theatre will smoothly guide them too and from their seat. Please contact the theatre in advance to take advantage of this service.