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Revivification of life with Hi-Bye’s “Rebirth”

2023.6.21

#STAGE

Japanese theater company Hi-Bye is about to set off for a nationwide tour of Rebirth, initially written in 2006 by playwright Junnosuke Tada. Its distinctive feature, where the same plot is repeatedly played three times, resonated with many performers and was reinterpreted and played extensively over the years.

Following the last performance in 2015, actor and playwright Hideto Iwai remained as the director to showcase a new version of Rebirth with another two staff, Ayami Sasaki for stage art and Kyoko Fujitani for costume design. This is an exciting chance to see the latest version of Rebirth and how a creative collective such as a theater company has changed over eight years since the last performance.

Creation is a form of passion regardless of the creative format. However, any creative life still requires facing daily labor that’s not always inspiring. Ahead of the Rebirth tour, NiEW spoke to Sasaki and Fujitani about their theater company FaiFai, the relationship between creating and collectivity and life.

Audiences and performers all in one space meant a lot in 2015’s Rebirth (Sasaki)

– Following the last performance in 2015, actor and playwright Hideto Iwai remained the director for Rebirth, and another two staff members joined. Ayami Sasaki for stage art and Kyoko Fujitani for costume design. How did you two come to participate?

Sasaki: I don’t remember (laughs). But we did talk about evolving the project based on 2015, and to realize what we couldn’t at that time. Like building a waterfall.

– Waterfall!

Sasaki: In the end, we gave up on the waterfall this time and said, “If this happens, let’s do it again in a waterfall deep in the mountains.

Fumimi Sasaki, stage designer

What was the creation process like in 2015?

Sasaki: At that time, we talked about Greek mythology and festivals that people have been doing since ancient times, and we talked intuitively about human activities and how there are many different things, and I think we tried to reach a point where my body was satisfied with what we were doing. I felt that this was the continuity with the concept of “Rebirth” as well. …… I also saw “Interstellar” (directed by Christopher Nolan) around the same time, and I thought that a bookshelf would be a good idea.

– The bookshelf on which Matthew McConaughey communicates with his daughter from a distant universe.

Sasaki: That’s it! That’s it! I think the worldview of Fai-Fai is the same in many cases. It is as if the world, the earth, the universe, history, and everything else is contained in your own little room.

– In that regard, the auditorium was built steeply, surrounding the stage as if the whole space was a room.

Audience seating in 2015 (Photo by Kazuya Kato; Stage design by Fumi Sasaki)

Sasaki: There was also the image of the audience and actors coming to drink water from a fountain on the stage as animals, a mix of the two. I also had an image of the Kaaba Temple, the holy place of Islam, as a whole, although I thought no one would get this from the time. So I covered the outside with black cloth. I wonder what the …… sense of togetherness was. I really wanted to emphasize the fact that we all came together.

Scenes from the 2015 performance (photo by Kazuya Kato, stage design by Fumimi Sasaki, costumes by Kako Fujitani)

Fujitani: I just learned about the Kaaba Temple for the first time (laughs). I see! I see. It is true that Fai-Fai’s works have a roomy feel. I remember thinking that it would be nice if the costumes could convey the idea that everyone is a disparate individual and a group of disparate people. I also chose materials that were very concrete and made the movements dramatic. I was conscious of the fact that I could have a sense of physical expansion as I moved.

– Each performer’s costume was different, one dressed like Kenshiro from “Fist of the North Star,” and one dressed like a ballerina. It seemed to have stemmed from performers’ experiences and memories.

Costumes from 2015 (Photo by Kazuya Kato; Stage design by Fumimi Sasaki; Costume by Kako Fujitani)

Fujitani: Almost, yes. The way of making Fai-Fai is pretty much the same, but it is an individual tracing. I gather what is timely at the time within each person and make it into a work of art. I say, “This is what happens when I take something that comes from an individual and pass it through the filter of “rebirth” and my filter. As for the clothes, there is the individual. That’s why, in this version, I took the time to meet with the dancers, all of whom I had never met before, to hear their stories.

– Is it how you always make costumes?

Fujitani: Almost: Almost always. If I have time to attend a rehearsal, I just observe the dancers. I would check his/her personal clothes, and I would think about how he/she likes to look and behave. I also often ask, “Are you excited (to wear the costume)? I ask them if they are excited (by the costumes).

– Do you hope that your costumes lift performers up?

Fujitani: It’s a must. A must-mission. I have almost no desire to create my own costumes, but to raise the spirits of the people who are a part of the stage space, and their individual feelings, like a covering shot. I don’t mean clogs, but even if it was ready-made clothes, I would choose them for that person. It is important.

Kako Fujitani, costume designer

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