Disability Entertainment Japan

Brave new world in Tokyo, that has such people with disabilities acting in it: Disabled people re-imagine Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ in Japan

Performed by actors with disabilities from Japan, Britain and Bangladesh, the play is being staged in Higashi-Ikebukuro, Tokyo. The work, created by overcoming the “tempests” of disability, language and distance, conveys the importance of accepting each other’s differences and living together.

By Barrier Free Japan with an extract from The Japan News

June 4 2021

Dancing on stage was not something Sekiba, an actress who is totally blind, had thought possible. “I can understand that a person who cannot hear can dance, but how can I?” she thought after being approached to dance in the stage play “The Tempest: Swimming for Beginners.”

Jenny Sealey, a British director with a hearing impairment who was co-director of the opening ceremony at the 2012 London Paralympics, is the executive director who is working online from Britain because of travel restrictions during the pandemic.

Her original plan was to stage a bold reworking of Shakespeare’s final play, The Tempest, in May of last year. However, the tempest of the coronavirus pandemic threw the plans out of whack, and the content was drastically revised.

It evolved into a play-within-a-play, in which performers with disabilities such as deafness, blindness and physical impairments appear as themselves and talk about their disabilities, before taking on the roles in which they were cast.

Performed by actors with disabilities from Japan, Britain and Bangladesh, the play is being staged in Higashi-Ikebukuro, Tokyo. The work, created by overcoming the “tempests” of disability, language and distance, conveys the importance of accepting each other’s differences and living together.

“I myself thought that blind people could not be good at dancing,” the 24-year-old Sekiba said after Wednesday’s performance. “But when I tried dancing, and I found it was fun. I hope this dance will break down preconceived notions held by people with disabilities.”

The play is sponsored by the British Council and other institutions. The performance is being held at “Owlspot Theatre” until June 6, with the number of visitors limited to less than half of capacity. For more information, visit the theater’s website.

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