Glasgow-based theatre company Tricky Hat and their Japanese partners, London PANDA Theatre company in Sendai, have recently released two videos documenting a creative and positive response to the Covid-19 lockdown situation.
The pieces are created in the context of the ‘炎 Honō (Japanese for Flame) cross-disciplinary project, which evolved from Tricky Hat artistic team’s research trips to Japan in 2017, 2018 and 2019, supported by the British Council and Creative Scotland Partnership.
Honō forms part of the 11 Scottish projects included in the ‘UK in Japan 2019-20’, a joint initiative by the British Council and the British Embassy Tokyo to highlight the breadth of the UK’s relationship with Japan.
Established in Scotland as an innovative leader working with older people, Tricky Hat is a company that makes theatre ‘that resonates and has relevance to people's lives’ (Tricky Hat, 2020). Since 2017, it has taken advantage of opportunities put forward by the British Council and Creative Scotland Partnership to research and initiate dialogue with Japanese partners, with whom to ‘share views of the world and the places we live in’ (Tricky Hat, 2020).
Their research and development work took them to various parts of Japan, but it was in the Sendai area (where the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami hit in 2011) that they found London PANDA Theatre company, who were excited by different types of collaborative projects and making human connections.
Honō explores our views of the world and the places we live in, including experiences of the 2011 Tsunami and how older people are seen in both societies. The initial plan was to bring six Scottish artists and ‘Flames’ together with Japanese artists and ‘Flames’ from Sendai to create and perform a new piece of multi-media participatory theatre for people over 50 years old. However, the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown measures implemented in both countries meant it had to be postponed.
Working across continents, the partner companies resorted to technology to, as the Tricky Hat director puts it, ‘continue to share The Flames’ stories, energy and enthusiasm out into the world’ (Fiona Miller, 2020).
The videos feature Scottish and Japanese participants responding to Tricky Hat artists’ provocations. “The Flames participation has been overwhelming, sharing with us a huge amount of creative contributions, recordings, videos, poems etc.” (Fiona Miller, 2020).
The creative solution seems to have managed to counter the sense of isolation particularly affecting the older generation, on both countries. “I feel closer to The Flames as we are going through the same extreme situation. In Japan, self-isolating is a much bigger challenge for the older generation, who don’t conventionally use digital technologies. By finding a creative way to collaborate like we are doing, it keeps them visible and connected to each other and to the world” (Fiona Miller, 2020).
Even though plans for the project’s physical gathering has been put on hold for now it is clear that the relationships made between the theatre companies and the ageing communities they serve continue to develop through interactive engagement. Fiona Miller, for one, is optimistic “I think that the company will be stronger after this is all over” (Fiona Miller, 2020).
You can watch both films on Vimeo via the links below.
Staying In: https://vimeo.com/416935766