Stimmen aus der Universität – Ghost of Showa

Seminar: Aktuelle Hamburger Theaterfestivals unter der Leitung von Prof. Dr. Martin Schäfer

We were invited to a small Japanese room in the Garage of Thalia Theater. No one could have expected that this ‘horror story’ based on the economic situation of East Asia in the 20th century can be realized in this simple stage with 2 actors, few props and 3 screens in  the back.

The show was about two contrary protagonists: a Japanese economical hero during the colonial period (Nobusuke Kishi) and a Korean-Chinese girl who was living at the bottom of the social system at that time.

Kishi traveled Germany and USA to study industrial policy and became the economic manager of Manchukou, a puppet state in Northeast China established by Japanese government. With his five-year-plan, he tried to promote economic growth, encouraging agriculture and building infrastructures such as railways.

However, in the meantime the girl was exposed to exploitation of power of labor for opium cultivation, which was economical mean for Japan to maintain it’s colonies, and construction project of the government and furthermore tortured, kidnapped and was sexually assaulted.

The contrast of two characters represents the relationship between dominator and subordinate, beneficiary and scapegoat and demonstrates a structural contradiction of human society.

The way these two different stories were expressed on the stage helps the audience to understand the theme of the performance. Kishi’s story is narrated in English as third person by a man who is sitting motionless. In contrast, the story of the girl conveyed by her own voice in Korean and by the Butoh dance of a skinny actress, which expresses emotions in an extreme form. Through those elements her pain and suffering were well delivered.

In addition, the application of grotesque animated 3D video helps the audience to understand the context of the plot better as well as create an atmosphere of fear. Strong and drastic color and drawing of the video fills the simple space with tension.

Even though we don’t have much of ab idea of 20th century East Asia, the performance combined with narration, video art and dance enables us to sympathize with the historical tragedy and reflect into our current society. With this point <Ghost of Showa> is not only a historical reminder of Japanese colonialism, but also a trigger for the self-reflection of the current socioeconomic situation.

 Chaeeun Lee

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