New Plays 日本の新作戯曲
First staged: 2007
Length: 1 hr. 45 min.
Acts/scenes: 1 act, 16 scenes
Cast: 9 (6 male, 3 female)
First staged by: The Shampoo Hat
A midsummer afternoon. A truck hits a woman named Hisako. There are two men in the truck, Kijima the driver and Kobayashi his passenger. Kijima punches Kobayashi to keep him from calling for an ambulance and then drives off.
Three years later, at Hisako’s house. There is an urn (for cremated ashes) on the table. A man wearing a bra for no apparent reason is eating pudding and listening to a message on the answering machine. The caller is Hisako, the woman who died in the accident, and the man is her widower, Kenichi. As he replays the message again and again, Aoki, Hisako’s elder brother, enters. Aoki is here to look for Kenichi, who did not show up for his blind date with Ms. Kawamura, a teacher at the school where Aoki works. Ms. Kawamura is with Aoki, and thus a makeshift blind date begins. Kenichi refuses to participate, lifting up his shirt to show the bra he has on underneath.
Kijima and Kobayashi, who were responsible for Hisako’s death, have been working together in the same taxi company since they were released from prison. At Kobayashi’s home, Kijima beats up a colleague, Hoshi, accusing him of telling people about their past crime. Kobayashi’s wife, Akiko, shows no reaction to the brutal violence taking place right before her eyes. Then Aoki pays a visit, answering a request from Kijima who suspects that the threatening letters he has been receiving each day for the last month are from Kenichi. The letters read: “I will first kill you and then myself. XX days to go.” Every day the same letter arrives, with the number of days decreasing one by one. Kijima threatens Aoki and orders him to stop Kenichi. Stifling his own bitterness against the man, Aoki gives Kijima money and asks him to leave town. There are two days left before the announced murder/suicide.
Kenichi runs a gas station with one other employee, Kubo. He chats with Aoki who is visiting him. Meanwhile, Kijima roams the town with Hoshi and, on a whim, he rapes Seki, a female guard at a construction site.
Again at the gas station. It is lunchtime on the day before the announced murder/suicide. Kenichi plays catch with Kubo. He tries to ignore Aoki who is unable to bring up the threatening letters. Ms. Kawamura also shows up with lunch for Kenichi. When Aoki and Kawamura are not looking, Kenichi quickly hands his favorite baseball glove to Kubo and leaves.
Inside a room in a “love hotel.” Akiko is singing along to a karaoke machine, and Kenichi is with her. It seems that she is the prostitute Kenichi has ordered. The conversation between them goes nowhere. Kenichi wants to have sex, but Akiko can only talk vacantly about TV.
Kijima and Kobayashi are in a thicket in the middle of the night. Aoki is on the ground, tied up. Kijima is angry at Aoki, who is still trying to get him to leave town, and is trying to bury him. Kobayashi pleads with Kijima to stop, but Kijima merely rages at him. Kobayashi hits Kijima with a shovel and shouts that he just wants to buy a house and live a quiet, peaceful life, but Kijima hits him back, shuts him up, orders him to bury Aoki, and leaves.
August 10. The day turns out to be the anniversary of Hisako’s death. Kobayashi, Aoki, who has been saved, and Kubo search for Kenichi who hasn’t been answering his cell phone. At night, Kijima crashes at the apartment of Seki, the guard he raped. He is playing a video game. Seki looks happy and hospitable. Returning from an errand, Hoshi brings the final threatening letter that announces the execution of the murder/suicide plan. Kijima, mumbling about the bother of it all, goes outside with a knife in his hand.
At night, a heavy tropical storm is pouring over the town. In the darkness, Kijima dares Kenichi to show himself. When he does, Kenichi keeps saying that he just wants to talk. Kijima beats him, and Kenichi is no match. He lies still and then suddenly starts reading out a note he has in his hand. It details everything Kijima has been eating; his daily visits to convenience stores and pubs. Pointing out the aimlessness of Kijima’s life, Kenichi proclaims, “This story has never had anything to do with you!” Showing no reaction even to his cries, Kijima answers his cell phone and leaves. Kenichi is left alone and then Aoki appears and talks to him.
On his way back home, Kenichi runs into Ms. Kawamura who says she has just been to see her mother who will soon be released from hospital. She hands him an umbrella. He stands there without a word.
Kenichi’s house again. Kenichi, in his boxer shorts and cup of pudding in his hands, listens to his wife’s message on the answering machine. He listens to it for a second time, and then presses the delete button. After hearing the beep, he spills the pudding over his head. He picks up another cup and does the same thing. The third one he smears all over his face. A slight smile flickers across it.
There is an air that something new is going to happen.
Born in Chiba Prefecture, Akahori joined the performance collective Stage 14° in 1994. When it disbanded in 1996, he formed The Shampoo Hat and since then has written and directed, as well as acted in, all their productions. Akahori’s early plays were skit-like situations, but since 1998 he has used very ordinary settings such as a middle-class family’s kitchen, a room in an apartment, or the roof of a building in which he creates an existential theatrical space for his subject matter. While exchanging laughs, the characters and their lives are depicted in a thoroughly real and banal way, laying bare the awkwardness, hilarity, cruelty, and even insanity inherent in human nature. Akahori also writes and directs productions for other theater companies, and writes scripts for many screen productions. The Shampoo Hat’s 2007 work Sono yoru no samurai (The Samurai That Night) was short-listed for the Kishida Drama Award in 2008.