Tokyo International Players production “The Good Person of Szechwan” opens on Oct. 18th. English Shows Tokyo talked with Graig Russell, the director.
cover photo taken by John Matthews
–How did you get involved with theater?
I’ve been doing shows since I was about 9 years old. My mum got me involved in the local volunteer theatre group, and the International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival they hold in Buxton, England, once a year. I’ve done at the very least one show a year since then.
–Why did you decide to direct the show ‘The Good Person of Szechwan’ at Tokyo International Players?
I was looking for something to direct, wanting something funny but not vacuous, reading a lot of French Absurdists. And then I stumbled on Brecht. Like most people who’ve been through some kind of theatre higher-education, or are regular theatre-goers, I knew Brecht. And like most people, I associated his stuff with dense and dull theory. Nonetheless I thought I’d give Good Person a read, just in case. What a surprise! Funny, engaging, thoughtful and thought-provoking. It wasn’t anything like I remembered. I think theatre is perfect for bringing people together and making us look at ourselves objectively — and Brecht thought so too. I don’t think this is the end of my relationship with Bert, at any rate!
–What do you hope audiences take away from the show?
Oh, what ever they like. At the very least I know they’ll have a good time. Our cast is hilarious. But of course I also hope they think a little about how we treat one another, and how our current social and economic structures aren’t the be-all and end-all of history. There’s always things to improve, ways to build kindness into the system. Around the world ugly political ghouls are raising their heads again. We mustn’t let it get as bad as it did when Brecht was writing.
-Aside from directing the show at Tokyo International Players, you are a lighting professional who works for Japanese company. It must be challenging to overcome a language barrier and to be a professional theater person. How long does it take you to establish your career?
Well, I’ve lived in Tokyo for 10 years, and I’ve been doing my current job for about 4. Before that I was freelancing and doing all sorts of things.
I didn’t speak Japanese when I came, and I only knew a little about lighting though, so someone smarter and more experienced could do it a lot faster!
–How did you learn Japanese? (Your Japanese skills are perfect. It’s amazing!)
I’m not sure my skills are so good, but unless you’re very, very, very motivated, you won’t get used to a language (I prefer that to ‘learn’) unless you’re forced to. So I made friends who don’t speak English, and I tried to force myself into situations where I would hear only Japanese.
I loved learning Kanji though — that was just fun, and learning to read helps a lot.
–Please tell us how to be a professional lighting operator/designer.
It’s hard to get paid doing any theatre work, so you better be really passionate about it. And if you’re passionate about it, you’ll learn!
–What is your goal/dream?
Good times with my husband and family. Warm bed with cats. Theatre all day every day.
The Good Person of Szechwan
Date: Oct. 18–21, 2018
Location: Nakano Teatre BONBON
3-22-8 Nakano Nakano-ku, Tokyo(5 minute walk from Nakano Station)
For ticket reservations: www.tokyoplayers.org
Adults 4,500 yen with advance reservation, 5,000 yen at the door.
Students & Children 3,000 yen with advance reservation, 3,500 yen at the door.
Tokyo International Players: www.tokyoplayers.org