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Navigating the Conclusion of Creative Pursuits: Suguru Yamamoto from HANCHU-YUEI in Dialogue with Keiichi Sokabe




Playwright Suguru Yamamoto, who won the Kishida Kunio Drama Award, akin to the “Akutagawa Prize” in the theater world with his play “Banana no Hana wa Taberareru” (first performed in 2021), stands as an unparalleled prodigy carrying the contemporary theater scene on his shoulders. His theater group, HANCHU-YUEI, which he leads, delicately addresses actual themes such as controversies, media scrutiny, and gender disparities. Their latest production revisits “Kokoro no Koe Nado Kikoeru ka,” first staged in 2021, highlighting Keiichi Sokabe’s involvement in its music composition.

Several tracks from Sokabe’s 2018 album “There is no place like Tokyo today!” released via digital and LP formats are featured, alongside the specially composed piece “Steki na Yoru” created for this production. Sokabe composed this piece in response to viewing the play and rehearsals as a whole. Starting with this portrayal of trivial disputes between neighbors and spouses, the discussion flows into the creative stances of Yamamoto and Sokabe. Thus, a far-reaching dialogue unfolds, not only exploring their current positions but also looking ahead to the future trajectories and legacies of these artists.

Depicting Tokyo While Evoking Another World

-When did you start listening to Mr. Sogabe’s music?

Yamamoto: (The theater company) Lolo used Sunny Day Service’s music in their performances, and that’s when I started listening to them a lot. Then I heard that Mr. Sogabe bought a regular ticket to see “Banana Flowers Can Eat” and came to see the show.

Sokabe: I am not a frequent theater-goer, but I thought I had to see this. I sometimes have that intuition when it comes to movies or music. When I actually saw it, I was shocked at how much I enjoyed it. One viewing was not enough, and I would like to see it again or twice if I have the chance.

Yamamoto: Thank you very much. I had that kind of connection, and when I listened to more of Mr. Sogabe’s music, I realized that he is extremely prolific. I was curious, “Where in the world does this energy come from? I became curious. At that time, I happened to listen to an essay by Mr. Sogabe titled “The One with the Good Smell” on Audible, which was read by his own voice. I thought, “Oh, I definitely want to meet this person,” and I offered to use his music for the reenactment of “Can You Hear My Heart?

Suguru Yamamoto
Writer, director, actor. Representative of HANCHU-YUEI. Born in Yamanashi Prefecture. Cultivates an artistic sensibility from childhood absorption in film, literature, music, and art, vividly reflecting the rapidly transforming ethical perspectives of contemporary information society in his theatrical worlds. Explores “theatre on the other side” using online platforms, creates works for both adults and children in the “Series for Adults and Children,” and conducts workshops for youth and welfare facilities, showcasing a wide-ranging repertoire. Engages in performances, international collaborations, and script contributions in Asia and North America, expanding his activities globally. Named a Grant Artist at ‘ACC2018,’ he studied in New York from September 2019 to February 2020. Awarded Best Script and Best Production at the Bangkok Theatre Festival 2014 for “Young Girl X.” Winner of the 66th Kishida Kunio Drama Award for “Banana no Hana wa Taberareru.” Saison Fellow at the Saison Foundation.

-Additionally, it seems that you felt that the tracks from Sokabe-san’s album “There is no place like Tokyo today!” released on digital and LP formats, resonated well with the thematic elements of this production. Could you elaborate on specific examples?

Yamamoto: “In ‘Kokoro no Koe Nado Kikoeru ka,’ it seems like it’s talking about Tokyo, but in my mind, the stage of the play is a fictional suburb. And ‘There is no place like Tokyo today!’ also seems to talk about Tokyo, but it gives me the impression of discussing things on a world or cosmic scale. That common ground is why I thought they would match well.”



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