Hiku, the performance conceived by Anne-Sophie Turion and Eric Minh Cuong Castaing, overturns the initial fascination with the phenomenon of hikikomori, those Japanese social recluses who no longer leave their rooms. During the performance, unimagined links are forged.
Stop avoiding eye contact
1.5 million is the figure put forward by the Japanese government. A low estimate for some. 1.5 million people cut off from society, no longer working, unable to go to school, shut up at home – people referred to as hikikomori.
It was Japanese psychiatrist Tamaki Saito who first used this term in his book Social withdrawal: a never-ending adolescence, published in 1998. Made up of two ideograms, Hiku (« to draw inward ») and Komori (« to lock up »), the term was originally used to describe young people whose voluntary seclusion for more than six months could not be explained by psychiatric disorders. Since then, the word has been democratised to cover a wider reality. In Japan, young people and adults are withdrawing into themselves, away from a world demanding success and fraught with possible threats. This is a phenomenon that COVID has accentuated and even developed in other countries.
Anne-Sophie Turion and Éric Minh Cuong Castaing worked with New Start Kansai, an association in Osaka prefecture that helps hikikomori to re-socialise, and thanks to one of the mediators, Atsutoshi Takahashi, they were able to make contact with three hikikomori who were on the road to reintegration. Shizuka, Mastuda and Yagi are at the heart of Hiku. The show claims to be a performance. From their rooms in Japan, the hikikomori use the Internet and the technology at their disposal to act and interact on the stage where the audience is. For them, it is no longer a question of fleeing the gaze of others, but, on the contrary, of soliciting it.
An intimate revolution
The set design by Anne-Sophie Turion and Eric Minh Cuong Castaing makes this intimate revolution possible. Reaching out to others, showing oneself, exposing oneself on stage in front of an audience. The stage is vast, punctuated by giant screens which, at the start, play the same videos in a loop. The spectator is invited to wander around the space.
One of the videos shows Atsutoshi Takahashi, a mediator from the New Start Kansai association, in a flat. From behind, he enters and sits down facing a traditional paper door. He speaks softly to the person cloistered behind it, but the shōji remains closed. Another shot reveals a bird’s-eye view of a room where a hikikomori, handicapped by his obesity, is moving around. A sideways tracking shot then shows a young girl on a bicycle. Wearing headphones, she rides across a bridge in the dark, on a luminous, glittering bicycle. In another interior saturated with writing on the wall, a young man is writing. The last image reveals a middle-aged man, a former hikikikomori, surrounded by lush greenery. Alone, he waves a large white flag with black ideograms in the wind.
The second part of the show disrupts the audience’s leisurely stroll. Robots enter the stage. Each one is manipulated by Shizuka, Mastuda and Yagi, the three hikikomori on the road to re-socialisation, from their home in Japan. Their faces appear on the screen of their robotic avatars in action. The remote-controlled machines cut through the crowd, forcing them to move to avoid them or to get closer. The interaction continues through speech, thanks in particular to the remarkable work of Yuika Hokama, who translates live what is said in Japan, as well as what is said on stage. Shizuka, Mastuda and Yagi invite the audience to ask them questions via their screens. Even if this part is a little long and lacks dynamism, the approach is interesting.
The performance Hiku, devised by Anne-Sophie Turion and Eric Minh Cuong Castaing, winners of the Groupe des 20 Théâtres d’Ile-de-France, raises the hopes of the hikikikomori to forge links beyond suffering and isolation.
M La Scene’s LM (elle aime / she likes) : LMMMMM
Maison de la culture du Japon Paris
as part of the Festival d’Automne 2023
Hiku, winner of the group of 20, will be at the Théâtre de Châtillon on 17 and 18 November as part of the OVNI festival.
Conception, Anne-Sophie Turion et Eric Minh Cuong Castaing – Lauréats 2020 de la Villa Kujoyama
Performance et traduction live, Yuika Hokama
Performance en téléprésence, Shizuka Fujii, Ippei Mastuda, Tomohiro Yagi
Collaboration au Japon, médiation, co-organisation de la manifestation, Atsutoshi Takahashi et l’association New start Kansai
Accompagnement dramaturgique, Marine Relinger, Élise Simonet
Regard extérieur : Youness Anzane
Scénographie, Pia de Compiègne, Anne-Sophie Turion
Dessins : Yoshiyuki Ogawa
Création sonore, Renaud Bajeux Création lumière, Vera Martins
Régie générale : Virgile Capello Régie adjointe : Magalie Sfedj
Intervention régie vidéo : Renaud Vercey
Chef opérateur, Victor Zebo
Assistanat deuxième tournage, Yuya Morimoto
Cadreur camera premier tournage, Yuji Suzuki
Traduction au Japon, Thomas Poujade, Tadashi Sugihara, Naoko Tanabe, Thomas Poujade
Montage, Lucie Brux
First performance at the Actoral festival in autumn 2023, at KLAP, Marseille
was conceived as part of a residency at Villa Kujoyama, with the support of the Institut français and the Institut fançais du Japon and the Fondation Bettencourt Schueller.
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