The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Artist Interview
Portraying the places where people with grudges come and go. The world of Go Aoki, a playwright shining light on the creases of the soul
9th Gring production Kyuka
Jun. 25-Jul. 4, 2004 at Shimokitazawa Geki Theatre
Written and directed by Go Aoki
Photo: Naomasa Fukuda
10th Gring production Strip (re-staged)
Oct. 19-24, 2004 at THEATER TOPS
Written and directed by Go Aoki
Photo: Naomasa Fukuda
It seems that all the characters that appear in your plays bring some kind of “grudge” to it. What kinds of “grudges” do you want to write about?
I guess you can say that I have a desire to write about minorities. When you look at things from the perspective of a minority you find that what we think of as the accepted norms of society are not actually that normal. I want to write about the way people who are not in the majority see the world.

What is interesting is that the “grudges” these minorities hold are never solved. And although they remain unsolved, the play ends with some slight flicker of hope.
I am very happy to hear you say that. I think that probably reflects my view of the world. That is how I tend to look at the world. In other words, the problems that I encounter personally, for example, are seldom really resolved. It never happens that you wake up some day and suddenly your problems have been completely solved. Said from the opposite standpoint, if you sit in a place where a lot of different people from the real world are coming and going and look at the world from that perspective, you can encounter people there who will make you feel good that you had a chance to meet them, if only for a moment, and were able to hear them talk about something you will remember. That, I believe, is a very important thing. Your problems and worries may go on forever, but the people you meet today and share a moment with should help you get by.

I imagine that you often have people say that for a young playwright you write a lot like the playwrights of the [older] New Theater generation. How do you feel about that?
I think that is probably because my plays are about easy to understand situations, there is one clear role for each actor and the play develops in the form of a conversational drama. But, I don’t think that way. When I get one entertaining idea that I like, I believe that I can make it into a play. In the case of my latest work Niji (Rainbow), I had the idea of having a rain scene using real water, and then I thought that it would be moving to have light shine through a stained glass window and have it look like a rainbow (laughs). Although I can’t use huge amounts of water or have tons of flower pedals come showering down like Ninagawa does. My plays have stories that are ones that are built on a progression of very realistic, colloquial language, so you can’t suddenly do something big and dramatic at the end. In my play Innocent I wanted to have a shower of cherry blossom pedals at the end, but when I thought about it I realized that all I could really do was have a small flurry of pedals fall way off in the distance. Because the play to begin with is such a quiet one (laughs).

Why are your plays always quiet ones?
I wonder why. When I got married I took my wife and went around to pay our respects to all of my relatives. We went to about 40 homes in all, and everywhere we went my relatives were the kinds of people who keep up a constant conversation, talking on and on. I guess that type of family character is what my memories are made of (laughs). No one makes grand pronouncements in a big voice, everyone just keeps talking normally. I guess it is in the blood. But, lately I am concerned about the fact that people say colloquial-language plays are becoming conservative. In other words, I’m questioning whether or not it is enough to just present the things I see in front of me in an easy to understand manner.
However, for our third Gring production I wrote a play called “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” about a National Defense Force soldier moving their base. At that time I thought that I could only write the kinds of plays I am writing now, and I also had the feeling that might be OK. One of the characters is a daughter who wants to write novels but finds that she can’t do it. She wants to write a grand-scale story but she can’t think of one. But, in the process of watching and listening to the small things happening around her, she gradually realizes it is only these small things that she is able to write about. That was clearly a case of me writing about my own feeling, and I thought at the time that if I pursued the writing of such details diligently and to the limit, something big and significant might be revealed on the other side. And that would be the same as giving people a truly grand-scale story.

For your 10th Gring production you have moved up to the Kinokuniya Hall, which is so-called mecca for Small Theater companies and hub of the New Theater. Why do you think your plays are so popular?
I am not really sure that they are. The media writes about my works to a fair degree and I feel that my name has become known. If I really am being accepted by the audience, I think it must be because my “pursuit of detail” that I just mentioned is communicating to the audience and they feel those parts to be well written. I have come to feel lately that I really am a third-generation box-lunch maker. I can’t make sophisticated Kyoto kaiseki cuisine (laughs) and I can’t make creative new dishes. But, some may say that I make a good stewed tofu (laughs). I guess it’s the bloodline.
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