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More than just mime

Jan 06. 2016
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Japanese " Cultural Envoy" Shuji Onodera returns to Thailand with a multi-displinary work and a new company

LAST SEEN HERE in Performance Theatre Mizuto Abura’s “Cellophane Singular” as part of the 5th Bangkok Fringe Festival at Patravadi Theatre in 2003, actor, director and choreographer Shuji Onodera is now making a welcome return to Bangkok.

After Mizuto Abura disbanded in early 2006, Onodera moved to Paris where he spent a year as part of the Agency for Cultural Affairs’ “New Artists Overseas Research Programme” before moving back home to found Company Derashinera. And while our last memory of him is that of a highly skilled pantomime artist, his recent works and new company prove that he’s not exactly the Onodera-san we knew.

“I started Performance Theatre Mizuto Abura (‘Water and Oil’) in 1995 with three other members who specialised in pantomime. Since founding Company Derashinera, I’ve been working with contemporary dancers, Butoh dancers and theatre people in order to maximise the possibilities of performing art expression,” he tells XP.

“Pantomime itself has both theatrical and dance-like factors and I think that having a variety of people from different backgrounds step away from their specialisation can only create new discoveries or inventions.

“I cast the performers according to the content of work. My work sometimes doesn’t have a clear story and relies on each performer’s capability. I run a workshop first to get know each artist’s characteristics and strong points. Then, we have rehearsals to create as many common physical languages. That’s essential for my work.”

As a “Japan Cultural Envoy”, he’s now staying in Southeast Asia for a month and a half. After conducting workshops in Ho Chi Minh City last month, Onodera has now moved north to the Vietnamese capital and it is here that he will stage the international premiere of the double bill of “Another Story” and “An Occurrence of a Night”, with the support from the Japan Foundation, Arts Council Tokyo and Agency for Cultural Affairs.

The former is described as “a road movie of two men and one woman who visit a bowling alley and a restaurant during a journey. Through the whole journey, they have no words.”

As for the latter, in which Onodera will also perform, he says, “This is a dream. This is the dream of one night. It is a proof of being. It is said to be existence. It maintains that non-existence exists. It doubts even the existence. This is a portrait of the non-existent world.

 “I made ‘Another Story’ because I wanted to make a work like road movie and try to express the minds of uncommunicative people,” he explains. “We have staged it at several places and it was quite well received – by children as well as adults.”

“‘An Occurrence of a Night’ is made using the motif from old movies, with such sub-themes as the contrast between life and death, presence and uncertainty, puppetry and being manipulated and so on.

“We staged it at the lobby of an art museum in Japan and about 800 people watched it with a lot of concentration. I’ve recreated many parts for Hanoi and Bangkok.”

He put these two works together for us because, as the former is more than 10 years old and the latter a very new work, “I’d like to show the breadth of my artistic expression based on what I’ve done so far.”

In addition to performances in Bangkok, the Japan Cultural Envoy will also conduct workshops in Chiang Mai and Khon Kaen.

I’ll explain what I’ve done, how I think about physical movement, how we move body and so on,” he says.

The writer thanks Japan Foundation Bangkok’s Kazue Suzuki for all assistance.



- “Another Story” is at the Youth Theatre in Hanoi at 8pm on Saturday and Sunday. Free tickets can be picked up at the Japan Foundation, Centre for Cultural Exchange in Vietnam.

- The show comes to the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre next Wednesday and Thursday at 7.30pm. Tickets are Bt500 (Bt400 if you book by Tuesday; Bt200 for students). To order, e-mail (subject: “Company Derashinera Ticket Reservation”).

- For further details, call |(02) 260 8560-4 or check

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