The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Daisuke Miura
Daisuke Miura
Daisuke Miura was born in Hokkaido in 1975. He is a playwright and director leading the theater unit “Potsudo-ru” formed by members of the 10th class of the Waseda University Drama Club. Having changed from the extremely dramatic plays of the unit’s early years, Miura changed to a style that avoided drama as much as possible in favor of a “semi-documentary” style that sought a high level of “reality.” That style has further progress to the current one that skillfully works a documentary touch into drama to achieve a style that creates “fiction with reality.” Miura’s play Ai no Uzu (Love’s Whirlpool) won the 50th Kishida Drama Award (2005) after premiering in 2005 as Potsudo-ru’s 13th production.
Ai no Uzu
Ai no Uzu
Ai no Uzu (Love’s Whirlpool)
(at Theater Tops, 2005)
Photo: Wakana Hikino
(See also Play of the Month)
an overview
Artist Interview Artist Interview
Desire and Dramaturgy   The art of Daisuke Miura, rising star on today's theater scene 
Playwright and director Daisuke Miura is the leader of the theater unit “Potsudo-ru” that is causing a sensation on the Japanese theater scene today with its plays that explore the sex industry as a revealing phenomenon of contemporary Japanese society and the state of young people today. How did Miura come to the extreme methods he uses to get live, straight reactions out of the actors and bring to the stage such real representations of human relations, people’s complexes and sexual desire, and what are his intentions in doing so? In this interview we seek the essences of the art of Miura, a man who refers to himself as a child of the TV drama generation.
(Interviewer: Tadashi Uchino)

You were born in 1975 and will be 31 years old this year. We’re interested to know by what route someone of your generation got into theater? We hear that you came to study at Waseda University in Tokyo from a high school in Hokkaido. Could you begin by telling us something about your high school years? We hear that you used to watch a lot of TV dramas.
I went to a public co-ed high school and at the time TV dramas were very popular. I watched a lot of the so-called serial dramas, such as Shinji Nojima’s Koko Kyoshi (“High School Teacher”) that had episodes dealing with subjects like forbidden love between teachers and students, incestuous relationships, homosexual relationships and the like. In one season (12 weeks) there would be seven or eight of these dramas going on and I liked them so much that I would record them all on video, from the first episode to the last and watch them all. I don’t know if those dramas are now being reflected directly in my plays today, but they are definitely something close to the core of my thinking. And, the taboo subjects that come out in our Potsudo-ru plays may be partly the influence of those Nojima dramas. Although this is something that is a bit embarrassing to admit.

Did you watch movies too?
No. In our area the only movies that came around were the big mass-market films that I wasn’t interested in seeing. I didn’t watch them on videos either. I also wasn’t very interested in amine (animated films), video games or comics. I just liked watching those gritty, everyday-life TV dramas (laughs).

When was the first time you became involved in theater, and why?
In our high school culture festival. For our class skit, they told me to write a play and direct it. At the time, of course, I had no idea that I would be involved in theater in the future. The skit was titled Edo Jo Kinpatsu-hime Flora (“Edo Castle Blond-haired Princess Flora”) and was about a theater troupe putting on a chintzy Edo-period play and the mad scramble that happens after a part of the set collapses on the lead character and he is hospitalize, all done in documentary style. It was like a Meta theater piece. We all talked together to decide how it should develop, so you can’t say that it was all my ideas. But, it is interesting that it had something in common with what we are doing today in Potsudo-ru.
 At the time, tough, I felt that theater was something un-cool and out of style. And, though it was something un-cool to begin with, it bothered me to be doing an amateurish Read-from-the-script type of skit even for our high school culture festival. Also, the idea that the confusion that occurs after the chintzy play falls apart is more interesting than the play itself … that is an idea that has a lot in common with what we are doing today in Potsudo-ru. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it an outright dislike for conventional theater, but I do feel that we used that as a shield until now. I want to create a platform for us to express ourselves and our lives honesty. And perhaps I have used theater as that platform, then and now.

When and why did you decide to begin doing theater seriously?
It was after entering Waseda University. Waseda is a school where student drama is very popular and it was an environment where there was always theater going on around you. I just gradually got drawn into that. The first time that I saw a live drama performance in the closed, intense atmosphere of the small theaters, it had a very strong impact on me. After that I watched the plays by the Waseda theater groups and the popular companies of the day, such as “Caramel Box” and “Nylon 100°C,” and the plays of Suzuki Matsuo’s “Otona Keikaku” company.
 Waseda has its venerable Waseda Theater Circle (“Sodai Gekiken”) and I attended a few meetings but found that it wasn’t for me. Instead, I joined the Waseda Drama Club (“Enkura”), which was created by people who had dropped out of the Theatre Circle because they didn’t like its strict discipline. It was a club that didn’t have the strict discipline and was a place where people could do things more freely, which fit my nature better (laughs).
 In the Waseda Drama Club, new members go through about three months of physical training and then, after their freshman performance, everyone can do plays as they please. It doesn’t have the unified regimen or solidarity of a theater company. What characterizes the Club most of all was the fact that the different members were doing completely different things. That is what was good about it.

The tenth-term class of that Waseda Drama Club got together and formed the theater company Potsudo-ru and the first play you did was Busaiku (Ugly) – Embracing Your Inferiority Complex (1996), which was said to be strongly influenced by the works of Suzuki Matsuo.
I definitely was influenced by Matsuo at the time. He took things like people’s inferiority complexes as a way to bring out visions of human essence. I thought that it was really an achievement the way he made these themes into plays. Nojima also focused on the unseemly sides of people and on society’s taboos. I think the attraction I felt to Matsuo’s plays was a natural extension of those TV dramas [of Nojima] that I was watching with such interest in high school, which is rather embarrassing to admit now (laughs).
 Still, in college I didn’t think I would continue to work in theater this long, and I even did the usual job-hunting routine in my senior year quite seriously, though unsuccessfully (laughs). Getting back to theater, we did our fourth production, which was titled Tsumazeme. Up until that time I had believed in things theatrical to an excess, but suddenly I got tired of it all. For some reason I began to feel embarrassed by it all. So, I decided to try making a film instead of theater. I got together some money to self-produce a movie titled Hatsukoi (First Love).

Hatsukoi is a movie about an ugly young woman named Misaki who also seems to have some physical deformity. She falls in love with a young man named Yoshida who works at a zoo and is constantly bullied and abused by the people around him. All the people who appear in the play are losers of some form or another. In this sense it is similar to many of the plays you have done, but it is quite different from a theatrical work in that most of the screenplay consists of monologue by Misaki. And, unlike the excessive nature of the plays you had done until that time, the movie unfolds in a straight-forward and non-dramatic way.
This was a movie that was a film re-creation of a lot of what I had been doing in theater until that time. The spoken lines were written to match the scenes that were filmed, so it isn’t excessive. But, it has elements of what I had been doing with my plays in characters and in the way that the story develops. After doing this movie, I had to do a play again, but I was embarrassed to do the same type of excessive play I had been doing before. What should I do? So I decided to do a work where I stripped away all the theatrical elements, and the result was the play called Knight Club.
 I decided to do away completely with having the actors raise their voices and deliver lines from a script and all other kinds of impressive theatrical staging techniques. And besides that, I divided Knight Club into two parts. The first part is man’s drama that takes place in a room of an apartment, while in the second part it becomes clear that the first part was actually the drama portion of a soft-porn movie and I make it a documentary style presentation of the action on the movie set when they are just about to film the love-making scenes. I used a situation in which the actors are trying to convince an actress who is really dead set against doing a nude role to undress and do the scene. Since the woman really was extremely reluctant to undress, you get the real emotions of that moment. Still, there was a predictable sense that this was all being faked … . Of course, you lose the natural reactions of the actress being forced to undress when the play is being performed over and over, so I added things like the actress getting beaten in order to keep the natural reaction, because the hurt of being beaten stays the same every time.
 In other words, I wanted the “crude emotions” element. I wanted the “reality” that comes when something happens for the first time. My aim was to create the feeling of something that is only happening here and now. Theater is live performance and the only advantage it has over film is that feeling of “liveness,” so I realized that this is the most interesting aspect of theater and if you don’t take advantage of it you are losing something very important. In that sense, you might say that I was doing nothing but returning to the essence of theater.

A lot of your works are produced for small theater performances, with the small theater being a sort of black box rather than a proscenium theater. And it seems to me that your stage settings always involve some sort of frame, like looking through the apartment window in your latest work Yume no Shiro (Castle of Dreams).
There is the question of how to share the feeling of “liveness” with the audience. Rather than trying to remove any barrier or separation between the audience space and the performing space, I believe that the more you create a sense of the audience looking down or peeking into the world of the characters on stage from the outside, the more the audience gets into that world and feels like they are a part of it. However, although it is peeking, it is the feeling that you want the person on the other side of the wall to be glued to the peep hole.
 With Knight Club I placed several video cameras around the set, and even the curtain was closed between the scenes the audience could watch the action taking place on stage via video monitors on the audience side of the curtain.

Why are you interested in complexes and taboos?
I myself was always in a relatively privileged environment with a position of advantage when I was growing up, so I was never picked on or bullied and I don’t think I ever had any real complexes. So, I sometimes wonder myself why I continue to deal with people’s unseemly sides and their negative sides (laughs). So, it may be some kind of denial of how ordinary I am. No, that’s not it either. To tell the truth I don’t really know why (laughs).
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