The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
The Happy Lads
(at Itami Ai Hall, 1998)
Photo: Ken'ichiro Matsumoto
First Performance: 1998
Performance time: 90 min.
Acts / Scenes: 5 scenes
Cast: 5 men
Japanese Drama Database
Play of the Month Play of the Month
The Happy Lads   Hideo Tsuchida 
Four men of the vaudeville team "Happy Lads" on a morale building tour of battlefront troops, begins their performance just as the rifles of soldiers from their own army point at them.
They had run off from the battlefield garrison right after a battle, and later were followed by a deserter. They holed up in a steel lookout tower in the middle of the forest.

The four, leaving their team leader behind, set out with the idea that if they could hide out for a week they would be able to go home to Japan, but they argue over trivial things. The sleepless Yoshimura wakes up Kogure and Sasakura and together they start to get into a ruckus, so Kamioka warns them to quiet down. Kogure and Sasakura have gotten into a war of words over a T-shirt and Kamioka gets angry because he is trying to make a map for them to use on their way back to Japan. The only thing on Yoshimura's mind is the live performance they will do when they get back to Japan, so he starts rehearsing the opening of the show. This reminds them of the unexpected reaction they got when they did their morale boosting jokes for their performance at this last garrison.

The deserter, Jounouchi, comes there because he heard a rumor that the four were at this lookout tower. According to Jounouchi, in a week there is going to be a large-scale sweep to wipe out guerrilla activity, so staying at the tower would be the best thing to do. Kamioka, who thinks they should set rules for keeping watch and going to draw water, is opposed by Sasakura who thinks they should do as the please. Kamioka goes off to draw water. Their tension skyrockets when they hear some gunshots. Kogure, who thinks they should observe the rules, goes off to see how Kamioka is doing.

Jounouchi, who sees all their petty squabbling, tells Yoshimura about an incident he remembers. One enlisted man's sense of justice led him to criticize some officers, so they killed him.

Jounouchi tries to mediate between the four, but he is no help. Kamioka dislikes the kind of jokes and material that is meant to provide support for the soldiers in battle, and he criticizes Yoshimura for being totally thoughtless.

They all quiet down when Jounouchi tells them of the brutally severe punishment their company's leader and others got when the four ran off from the garrison. Sasakura then compares them all to idle grasshoppers fiddling away into the middle of winter. To get them all calmed down, Jounouchi asks them to do the show opening and Yoshimura's jokes. All five throw their energies into doing the performance.

They see a platoon of soldiers that appears to be returning to the garrison after a firefight, but suddenly the platoon's rifle muzzles point at the Happy Lads. Jounouchi offers to descend the lookout tower and turn himself in as a sacrifice, but the four see what has happened to the leader and realize that they too are going to be killed. Jounouchi asks them if they are just going to sit there and do nothing. In response, the four get up, and with the guns pointed at them, begin their show. Blackout.

Profile: Born: 1967
In1989, Tsuchida formed his theater company B-kyu Practice (now called MONO) and based his activities in Kyoto. Tsuchida has been handling all this company's writing and directing since 1990. He specializes in situation comedies on the theme of universal human sadness, and when well-matched actors perform together with their own unique intervals and tempo, their dialogue will fill the stage with laughter tinged with pathos. He received the OMS Drama Award for The Happy Lads in 1999 and the 56th Arts Festival Excellence Award for the Running Salmon in 2001. His style tends toward entertainment spectacle, so he is much in demand to write for commercial theaters such as Bungaku-za and Seinen-za, as well as scripts for television dramas. In 2003, he went to the United Kingdom for a year-long overseas study program on for up-and-coming artists administered by the Agency for Cultural Affairs.