The profile of a promising young play company from Japan
About “Sample” ・・・・・・・・・・・
It started with my doubt about human nature.
Is there a unified “human ego” at all? Even if there is such a thing, isn’t it rather a multiform, changeable and temporary thing?
Through my plays I try to portray human beings as “ego-less” animals that happen to use language.
In other words, we assume that human beings never actively choose their actions, but are passively made to choose certain actions. That assumption is at the base of our performance. Everything on the stage ? table, chairs, human beings, air conditioners, fences, and audience ? tempts the actors to certain actions. Actors may also be seduced by their own memories as well as by the environment around them.
My works are there to praise such humans, who are passive and do not deserve to be trusted.
Profile of a director & writer ・・・・・・・・・・
Shu Matsui （Director, writer, actor）Shu Matsui was born in 1972 in Tokyo. He first joined Theatre Company Seinendan in 1996 as an actor, and then also developed his career as writer and director. Both his first play “Passage” and his second “World Premiere” won the New Face Award for Writers by the Japan Playwrights Association.
Matsui founded his own company “Sample” in 2007, where he is also writer/director.
His piece written down for Sample in 2008, “Family Portrait” was short listed for the Kunio Kishida Award.
He has also directed several Japanese productions of European plays which include “Phaedra’s Love” by Sarah Kane and “Fire Face” by Marius von Mayenburg.
His play “Shift” was translated to French and performed at actOral6. in Marseille, and “Basement” was performed in Milan in Italian.
Matsui is also a part-time instructor at the Literature Department of Waseda University, Tokyo.
Past works ・・・・・・・・・・・
“Capacity of the Queen”2012.2 Kawasaki Art Center Artelio TheaterPrices
A new creation by Sample that seamlessly and oddly drives the fragments of the impure and mythical world depicted by Shu Matsui.
“At Gehena”2011.7 Mitaka City Arts Center
Inspired by the novel “The goddess” and “Toka-ton-ton” of Osamu Dazai, the winner of the 55th Kishida Drama award, Shu Matsui will scale up his “cosplay” world filled with vivid examples of people.
“The Treasured Son”2010.9 Atelire Helicopter / Seika Little Theater
A mother searches for her son, who claims that he’s founded his own kingdom omewhere in Japan.
A man approaches her and tries to get money from her, offering to take her to her son.
The daily duty of the king is to make complaint calls to the call centre of a large corporate:
“Why do you allow your people to illegally enter my kingdom?”
A young couple visit the mother and ask her to take them to the kingdom.
They seek asylum in the kingdom.
The mother sets out on a journey to the kingdom reigned by her treasured son.
Where can I find my own sovereign territory?
Where is the border?
“The Treasured Son” is a contemplation about sovereignty of “nation” and “I”.
“THAT MAN’S WORLD”2009.11 Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space, Small Hall 1
The stage is created with two levels : on the top level a couple who just lost their pet dog are struggling with their marriage, and on the bottom level a world of homeless appearing like a group of dogs living with a human being.
When the newcomer “Nezumi” appears in the lower world, fate has it that he is the first one to be killed as part of a revolution raised by the animals.
Meanwhile, the husband from the upper world tries to restore the relationship to his wife by pretending to be a dog.
One pillar extending from the floor to the roof signifies the relation between the two worlds. When the husband i s urinating on the lower world, its inhabitants enjoy it like it was blessed rain.
By playing the roles that are expected from us, we maintain the equilibrium, just like an unintentional coexistence agreement.
How the stories end and their significance is not revealed to us, but there is a shadow of love in midst of the absurdity and insanity.
Festival/Tokyo 09 Fall
“PASSAGE”2009.5 Mitaka City Arts Center
When we first played this piece I was often asked what the title “Passage” means.
I agree that “Passage” doesn’t make a perfect sense by itself.
“Passage” is from the phrase “a rite of passage”, but actually the play put more emphasis on the “ritual” rather than the “passage” at that time.
Of course that “ritual” was quite fictitious and had little to do with real life rituals such as initiation, marriage, having a baby or death. However, it seems that the rituals of passage that we face in the modern world require us to take part in that fiction.
We are required to play positive parts in it so that the world materialise.
That’s what I thought six years ago.
What about now?
It’s not that different. Only that I’m older by six years.
When I read the script again, I was struck with the similarity between what I thought then and what I think now.
Apart from technical naivety, it seems that this piece was near perfection from the start.
People don’t change.
But the fact that people don’t change can be interpreted either negatively or positively. That ambiguity supports this piece.
We may have put a bit too much emphasis on the negative side six years ago.
This time I’d like to hit a better balance. How it will be torn between the two interpretations is the charm and hope of this piece.
“BIOGRAPHY”2009.1 Komaba Agora Theater
A group of people come together to make a biography of a man. They verify a fact and link it to another; reconstruct a scene and interview his relatives; get carried away with their work and get out of control. In short, they pursue their raison d’etre in somebody else’s biography. It could also be said that they are just creating another “myth” although they may call it a history.
“FAMILIY PORTRAIT”2008.8 Atelire Helicopter
The play is situated in a small supermarket.
They sell lunchboxes with discount and give away the surplus to part-timers.
As the play follows the whereabouts of the lunchboxes that are sold and given away, solitary lives of the characters are gradually exposed: the shop-manager, a single English conversation lecturer, a shoplifter, a childless couple, a part-timer, a retired teacher of history, her reclusive son and her students. Can we find a thread that connects their apparently unconnected lives?
I want to portray those people who struggle to be mature. I want them to fall upside-down, go off the tracks and make blunders, half deliberately.
A small incident triggers a massive topsy-turvy with a slogan: “If you find it hard to stand firm, then try falling!” There we can hear them cry “Please take me with you!”, a cry of pain and joy.
It doesn’t matter where they want to be.
They realise that they are in topsy-turvy for no particular reason.
I want to make positive sense of such a situation, show that they (we) are no different from you, and prove that I’d love to be connected with somebody.
The title “Family Portrait” signifies this impossible desire.
“BURNING UP CALORIES”2007.9 Mitaka City Arts Center
Lost their goals, modern people are running about in confusion.
This play portlays such modern people by eclectic mix of realism and abusurdity.
First, an episode of a mother and her son came up to my mind.
Then an episode of a detective came up next.
Mother who had been admitted in a nursing home runs away with a helper.
Her son and the detective chase after them.
However, when the evaders try to overtake the chasers, their positions will reverse.
Then, they first realize, “we did not have to run away or chase after.”
Nevertheless, they do not stop running away or chasing after.
Are they controlled by something?
Do you insist to find the reason?
The only answer is to “burn up calories.
“SHIFT”2007.1 Atelier Shumpusha
In a reclusive village, the villagers have intermarried for many generations following their old tradition for a special purpose.
That is to produce albinos. It bears close resemblance of breeding dogs.
When a huge suburban shopping center emerges, the closed village life is suddenly drawn into a great confusion trying to rehash their old tradition in the surging wave of modernization. This play portrays such confusion from impersonal perspective.
“BASEMENT”2006.5 Atelier Shumpusha
This play depicts with realism how a natural food store turns into a cult-like community
The scene is a small natural food store nestled between the circular road and the expressway in metropolitan Tokyo.
The store manager, his son and store attendants form a small self-sufficient commune, selling “water” and natural foods.
The son lives in the store basement and produces “water.” One day, a girl comes to the store seeking for a job. Encounter with the girl makes the son unable to produce “water” anymore. “Water” dries out and the commune gradually falls apart.
“WORLD PREMIERE”2005.5 Komaba Agora Theater
The scene is an institution. In a room, a man is waiting for his turn to have his surgery.
There appears a young man who identifies himself as his son. Unexpected emergence of this young man leads the man to drift through his memories in the past.
All the memories; his wife suffering from infertility, suicide of his uncle who had a business of raising experimental animals, etc. come back to him.
Nevertheless, he wonders if these emerged memories are true or not.
Memories of the dead are glorified in the people who are left behind, but will never be renewed in the dead.
One’s character is formed based on one’s memories, so people believe, but people’s memories are obscure. This drama depicts uncertainty of how the memories form a character, using the crossed time axes and a well constructed story.
The 11th New Face Award by the Japan Playwrights Association
“PASSAGE”2004.5 Komaba Agora Theater
The scene is a family that faces all-too-common problems in modern society; impotent husband, wife who is worn out of nursing care of aged parents, extramerital affairs with a former class mate, et© One day, a man comes into the life of this family, and gradually family members become controlled by an environment created by his idea of “creating an utopia.” This play attempts to dipict reality by introducing dynamic change of stage scenes and actors’ nuanced and subtle performances. Awarded the 9th New Face Award by the Japan Playwrights Association.
Shu Matsui’s other works ・・・・・・・・・・・
“FIRE FACE ”2009.3 Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space, Small Hall 1
The young Japanese renowned playwright and director Shu Matsui directs Marius von Mayenburg’s much talked-about work “Fireface”, which left an unforgettable impression on the Japanese audience when it was staged by the German Schaubuehne Theater in 2005.
A family of four seems to live a life in harmony when the daughter’s boyfriend shows up one day and the family’s equilibrium starts to fall apart.
Festival Tokyo 09 spring
“PHAEDRA’S LOVE ”2008.2 Sai Studio Komone
When we see a man who tries to take off his clothes of ostentation and eventually peel his skin to expose his true skin, how can we laugh at such a deed as a “self-searching game”?
This mythical world written by Sarah Kane is actually a mirror image of our modern world. Hippolytus, who is confined in a world that stands on cover-ups and common senses that try to hide unpleasant realities, tries to confront that world with his “innocent” evilness once he receives a baton of “love” from his mother-in-law, Phaedra.
However, where was his enemy in that world? Was the world really against him?
Hippolytus’s deed may have been the curse against himself.