According to scholars and critics, theatre in Japan is currently in a “post-sociocritical” state. However, there has been a shift from mere entertainment towards a critical examination of the relation between individual and society in the works of Japanese theatre companies and playwrights since the mid-1990s.
By creating performances in mainly small scale theatres, these companies have established a vibrant and sometimes even anarchic “counter space” to consumer-oriented popular culture, enthusiastically followed by a young audience. In line with the 1960s’ avant-garde movement, theatre obviously still appeals to the youth by discussing critical and political topics.
Taking the assumption that theatre in Japan has lost its critical attitude as a starting point, this paper aims to examine how recent discursive approaches within contemporary theatre can be understood as a challenge to conventional definitions and understandings of “political” and “political theatre”: Does theatre need a political agenda to be considered “political”?
By analyzing recent works of Tokyo-based theatre companies, this paper aims to explore sociocritical issues being put on stage as well as different conceptions of the “political” in contemporary Japanese theatre.
Lisa MUNDT majored in Japanese Studies and Theatre, Film & Media Studies at Goethe University, Frankfurt, from 2002 to 2009. Since 2009, she has been a doctoral candidate at the department of Japanese Studies at Frankfurt University and is presently a PhD student at the German Institute of Japanese Studies (DIJ), Tokyo.