The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
4 four
(Nov. 5 – 25, 2012 at Theatre Tram)
Directed by Akira Shirai
Photo: Jun Ishikawa
Premiere: 2012
Length: 2 hrs.
Acts/scenes: One act, 8 scenes
Cast: 5 (5 men)
Japanese Drama Database
Play of the Month Play of the Month
Mar. 28, 2013
4 four by Takeshi Kawamura 
4 four by Takeshi Kawamura 
This play is the winner of the 16th (2012) Tsuruya Namboku Drama Award. It is the first play to emerge from the Setagaya Public Theatre’s “Playwright’s Workshop” program. Takeshi Kawamura wrote this play as a work in progress resulting from his attempts to explore “the possibilities of monologue” through drama readings and the like. The characters in the play are five men. The draw strips of paper from a black box that give them their roles including a university staff member chosen as a juror, a Minister of Justice, a prison correctional officer, a prisoner sentenced to death and a nondescript “man,” and as the play progresses they change roles several time. The five speak in monologue about the positions they are in, the problems they are facing, their views of life and death, crime and the death penalty, the definitions of crime and punishment, etc.
 The stage script has only the minimum of instructions about what the stage space should be, the positions of the actors, their actions and lines of movement during the play. In the play’s premiere directed by Akira Shirai the entire flat floor area of the performance space was used as the acting area and in it were placed a number of stage box platforms in various places to be used as set props and seats for the audience.
At the start, there is a black box on the stage and five men emerge as if from nowhere to draw slips of paper from it. It appears that the roles they are to play are written on the slips of paper.

The first to speak is “F” playing the role of a juror. He says that as a juror in a trial by jury he has given the death sentence to a young man accused of killing several people at random. In the accused murderer’s lack of any apparent emotions, F sees glimpses of his own father, who has lost his job and lived on in idleness until his death.

Next “O” speaks. His role is that of the Minister of Justice who is reluctant to carry out death sentences. He is drinking and thinking about the suicide of his father, who was also a politician.

As the prison officer, “U” tells of working on a daily basis with prisoners sentence to death and how he consoles himself by speaking to a tree in the park about the pain of having to perform executions sometimes.

As the prisoner sentence to death, “R” recalls the indiscriminate killings he committed as “something that happened as if in a dream.” R goes back and forth between feelings of guilt for his crime and the “dream” state he recalls.

Out of their roles now, four of the characters are discussing each other’s role situations and the words that were spoken. The discussion turns into an argument and U walks away. The remaining three decide to change roles and proceed. When the “man” brings the box of roles, U returns and they draw roles again and begin speaking their parts in monologue.

Now in the role of the prison officer, F tells about becoming the person in charge of setting the noose for an execution by hanging, and due to a mistake he made, he caused a senior penal officer at his prison to fall into a state of emotional distress.

Now as the juror, U tells how a fellow worker made a confession to him about destroying his family because of an extramarital affair he has had, and then, before U’s eyes, the fellow worker jumps to his death.

In the role of Minister of Justice, R proclaims that as the new Minister he is going to order the execution of the young man accused of the indiscriminant murders.

As the sentenced killer, O asks himself if his death will be a fitting way to pay for his crime.

O stops his monologue to say that he feels uncomfortable with the character as the previous actor had portrayed him and can’t go on. The four actors decide to go back to their original roles, but the conversation ends there. Eventually, R, with the role of the sentenced killer, begins to speak to the other three, F, O and U.

F, O and U ask him about things like the motive and cause behind the killings, trauma from his youth and whether or not he feels guilt for what he did. R doesn’t give them any convincing answers. F becomes enraged and begins throwing punches at O and R, after which the men begin to lose control of themselves. They look as if they are all have some sort of connection with the indiscriminant killings.

As the argument heats up, an execution platform and hanging noose suddenly appear. Playing the role of the sentenced killer is R. U begins to make preparations for the hanging without pause. There is trepidation in F and O as they watch, but the hanging is carried out and they fulfill their role of verifying that the prisoner is dead. The “man” comes and picks up R, now the dead body, and carries him away.

With R now absent, the others begin their monologues on the assumption that they now know that the execution was carried out.

U tells about his reunion with the senior prison officer that had become emotionally disturbed. F relates that he has begun to rid himself of the memories of his fellow worker that committed suicide and O tells how he lost his position as Minister because some unacceptable remarks he had made about the execution while drunk were leaked to the press.

Suddenly the “man” begins to speak. He says that he went to the grave of one of the victims to report that the killer had been executed, but when he did he felt no sense that anything had really ‘ended’ with that. All he felt was a sense of ‘nothingness.’

F, O and U give their opinions of what has happened, but in the end they reach no conclusion within themselves about what atonement there can be for a murder.

R comes in carrying the role box and encourages everyone to draw and try it all again.

Now it is the “man” who sets off another dispute. He has received a report that his son had committed indiscriminant killings just at a time when the “man” had reached retirement age and was looking forward to living a quiet life in retirement with his wife. After the shock he experienced an inability to feel anything. He felt no sadness when he heard that the execution had been carried out, and then the “man” says, “This is the end of not feeling.”

The other four criticize the “man,” saying that what he has just said is ‘against the rules.’ Desperate to find alternative lines to substitute, F goes into a panic and runs off. The “man” suggests that they do it over again.

This time the “man” begins speaking new lines about a scene in May. He tells about seeing the glorious green of the trees and feeling the presence of something returning from the depths of despair to be reborn.

The “man” says, “Let’s open the window.”

Unnoticed, a strong light has shone in to envelope the four.

Born in 1959, native of Tokyo. In 1980 Kawamura formed the theater company “Daisan Erotica” primarily with the Theater Study Group of Meiji University as its parent body. After that he became a leader of the small-theater boom that occurred in Japan during the 1980s with impressive accomplishments. In 1985 he won the Kishida Drama Award for Eight Dogs of Shinjuku: Volume 1, Birth of Dogs. Among his representative works are Japan Wars, Hamletclone, AOI/KOMACHI, The Lost Babylon, Crocodile Tears and Rojo (On the Street) series and many more. He became an ACC Japan USA Arts Exchange Program grantee and began touring internationally (1990-97) with works starting from A Man Called Macbeth at the Theatre der Welt Essen, and performed drama readings in each country after AOI/KOMACHI was translated into French, English, German and Italian. He has continued to be active abroad, including things like a U.S. performance tour in 2007. In order to broaden his scope of activities, Kawamura establish the production company T Factory in 2002. For the Setagaya Public Theatre contemporary Noh Theater series he has written AOI/KOMACHI, Shuntokumaru, Shunkan-san and Ai no Kodo. He dissolved Daisan Erotica in 2010 on the occasion of its 30th anniversary. Since then, he has continued to work ambitiously as a playwright, while also writing novels and critiques and essays. Currently he is premiering plays by Pier Paolo Pasolini for the first time in Japan. Kawamura is a professor at the Kyoto University of Art and Design.