Do future and utopia have to be mutually exclusive? This was the subject of the reflection of the authors of the Polish-Japanese theatre production ‘Always Coming Home’. The performance was co-produced by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, TR Warszawa and Festival/Tokyo as part of the celebrations of the centenary of establishing diplomatic relations between Poland and Japan. It premiered on 8th November 2019 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre as the culmination of Festival/Tokyo.
‘We try to show a little utopia on stage and reflect on how we can make the future world a better place to live for all of us’ – said the director Magda Szpecht about the work on the show. The production was inspired by the legendary science fiction and fantasy author Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel Always Coming Home. Le Guin’s book is not a typical narrative novel, but rather an anthropological record of the culture of people from the distant future, a multi-narrative record of life and customs that have not yet appeared. The authors of the performance followed the same path as the novelist: in their multi-narrative story they looked for an answer to the question how to live in harmony with each other and the surrounding world.
The action of the play begins where the vast majority of dystopian science fiction stories end. It depicts the world after the collapse of modern civilization, hundreds of years after climate disaster. Instead of showing a vision of a technologically advanced future, where the greatest human achievements clash with our worst instincts, the artists reached further, travelling through time to the point when humans once again live in harmony with nature. They decided to show a society in which a sense of community and non-hierarchical relationship with the surrounding world play the most important role.
Festival/Tokyo is one of the most important theatre events in Japan. In the autumn of 2016, Polish theatre was represented there by Krystian Lupa’s Woodcuters, which triggered the organisers’ interest in other Polish productions. During their visits to Poland that followed, the festival managers took notice of a young director Magda Szpecht known for, among others, her theatre adaptation of Houellebecq’s The Possibility of an Island. The vision of a Polish-Japanese co-production slowly began to take shape.
The team working on the performance consisted of a director and playwright from Poland, six Polish and Japanese actors, three Japanese playwrights and other artists – set designers, musicians and production coordinators. The scale of the project can be fully gleaned from further statistics: two years of preparations, six study visits in the partner’s country of both teams and three co-producers, including the Adam Mickiewcz Institute, TR Warszawa and Festival/Tokyo.
In 2019 the performance was presented only in Japan, however TR Warszawa was also working on its Polish version.
The premiere of the performance was held thanks to the support of the Polish Institute in Tokyo.
Always Coming Home
Inspired by the book ‘Always Coming Home’ by Ursula K. Le Guin
8th November 2019 7:00 pm
9th November 2019 3:00 pm*
11th November 2019 1:00 pm
Venue: Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre (Theatre East)
Language: Japanese, English
Director: Magda Szpecht
Text and Dramaturge: Łukasz Wojtysko
Dramaturge: Ken Takiguchi
Assistant Dramaturges: Chisato Sone, Kenyu Paku
Ayako Araki, Miho Inatsugu, Nana Suzuki, Monika Frajczyk, Mateusz Górski, Paweł Smagała
Choreographer: Paweł Sakowicz
Music: Krzysztof Kaliski
Stage Design, Lighting, Costumes: Michał Korchowiec
Video: Ryohei Tomita
Production Coordinators: Wakana Arai (Festival/Tokyo), Katarzyna Białach
‘Always Coming Home’ by Ursula K. Le Guin
Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.
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Detailed information about the performance is available at the Festival/Tokyo’s website:
Source: partner’s promotional materials, originally written in Polish by AW, 18 Oct 2019, translated by AW, 26 Oct 2019