Theorizing the Angura Space: Avant-Garde Performance and Politics in Japan, 1960-2000

Article excerpt

Peter Eckersall, Theorizing the Angara Space: Avant-garde Performance and Politics in Japan, 1960-2000 (Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2006)

This new book by Peter Eckersall is an engaging analysis of the stated subject, avantgarde performance in Japanese theatre. The central performance paradigm under consideration is the angura movement. Related to radical student politics of the 1960s and generally viewed as a reaction against the more realistic shingeki drama of the 1920s-to-1960s, angura is a genre of experimental, 'underground' performance. In some ways related to buta, angura theatre is similarly concerned with the body, with the use of space, and with a hybrid of traditional Japanese mythos and modern aesthetic movements. As Eckersall explains in his introduction, he intends to 'investigate the interrelationship of aesthetics and polities' in Japanese avant-garde theatre (xi). This book will prove useful to those interested in Japanese theatre as well as to scholars or students with an interest in forms of experimental theatre.

After the introduction, this book is organised into three main sections. Part One presents an overview and analysis of the beginnings of the angura movement in the 1960s. Part Two presents some of the developments in angura both during and after the so-called Bubble Economy of Japan in the 1980s. Part Three introduces the work and ideas of several prominent performing arts groups in Japan in the 1990s with a goal of 'rethinking' Japanese avant-garde theatre.

Part One is called 'The 1960s Space: Performance and Protest' and it includes four chapters that begin with an overview of relevant social developments in the postwar era, including student protests and the compelling issue of the times of shiitaisei, which is a Japanese concept of self-awareness and identity and was an influential concern among some Japanese artists, politicians and other thinkers. Eckersall's development of the 'shiitaisei effect' is one of the major themes of Part One and he handles it in a deft and thoughtful way. A good deal of time in Part One is also spent on the identity politics of student protest in the 1960s. Significant performances studied in this section include Fukuda Yoshiyuki's 1960 Document Number One and Terayama Shuji's Throw Away Your Books: Let's Go Into the Streets (1968), as well as a section on Suzuki Tadashi.

Part Two is called 'Culture After the Bubble: Performance and Performativity' and comprises a single chapter that attempts to bridge the angura of the 196Os to the experimental theatre of the 1990s by outlining the effects of the Bubble Economy of the late 1980s on Japanese culture in general and theatre in particular. This is accomplished primarily through the evocation of post-modernism, particularly ideas of consumer culture and popular culture. …