Backstage ingenuity for onstage magic

The message of ‘Nukegara’ is universal and it has been selected for the Japan-Malaysia Technical Theatre Workshop. The full performance will be held next year


With set design, it is more focused on the technicalities involving light and sound (Pic: Muhd Amin Naharul/TMR)

IF YOU have watched the Hong Kong comedy-drama film “Shed Skin Papa”, then you may have known that it’s based on a Japanese play called “Nukegara”.

“Nukegara”, which means shed skin, is written by Nagoya-born Norihiko Tsukuda, which earned him the commemorative 50th Kishida Kunio Drama Award.

If anything, this play may make you feel sorry for the main character Takuya Suzuki because he’s gone through a lot.

Just imagine — Suzuki has just been fired from his job at the post office, his mother recently passed away and his wife wants a divorce.

To make matters worse, he needs to take care of his dementia-ridden father during this tough period. Suzuki’s father starts to shed his skin every day, just like a cicada.

He sheds his skin in different places, and every time he sheds his skin, he is taken back to a younger version of himself.

The first shed takes him back to 60 years old, the next one is when he becomes a 50-year-old man who had ulcer. Then, he goes back to his 40s when he was a happy-go-lucky father in a Hawaiian band, and later he sheds into his carefree 30s.

Finally, he becomes a 20-year-old soldier.

Conversing with the different stages of his father gives Suzuki a chance to understand the different sides of his father, before his birth. In fact, his father is shedding his skin to help his son overcome his crisis.

“Nukegara” is a play which focuses on a parent-child relationship and highlights that “communication is key”.

Eleven participants from different backgrounds showcase their work on the final day of the workshop (pic: Muhd Amin Naharul/TMR)

The message is so relevant today where a great part of our live is consumed by technology. We wouldn’t know each other if we didn’t talk, right?

The message of “Nukegara” is universal and it was selected for the Japan-Malaysia Technical Theatre Workshop.

The five-day workshop was presented by The Japan Foundation, Kuala Lumpur (JFKL), together with coordinators Doppo Narita and Seshadri Kalimuthu, right before the inception of the Movement Control Order (MCO) at Pentas 2 of the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac), Sentul.

The Japan-Malaysia Technical Theatre Workshop was conducted by three

Japanese professionals — set designer Toki Kenichi, lighting designer Kazawa Ayoko and sound designer Fujihira Mihoko.

Eleven participants from different backgrounds showcased their work on the final day of the workshop.

Practical Sound Effects

Different objects are used to make different sound effects such as using 2 bells to make a phone ringing sound (pic: Muhd Amin Naharul/TMR)

Perhaps one of the most interesting presentations was the sound design. Different objects were used to make different sound effects, such as squeezing a water bottle to create a perfume sound and using two bells to make a phone ringing sound.

The Malaysian Reserve got to learn from Mihoko who shared the process of creating the sounds.

“For the door-knocking sounds, we used a black box,” she said.

Then, there was the sound of the cicadas which is an important element of the play. Different objects were used to create this sound effect.

“For the cicadas’ sound effect, they used a chopstick. They also used a toy toaster for the sound,” Mihoko explained.

On the first day of the workshop, she watched the “Rashomon” play here and felt that Malaysia has very good technology in the theatre, which is the same as in Japan.

However, she didn’t manage to work with one of the local staff here.

One of the most interesting presentations is the sound design (pic: Muhd Amin Naharul/TMR)

“We only had a conversation with a person who participated in the workshop. So, we don’t really know the differences on how the staff work in Malaysia compared to Japan,” said Mihoko.

What her participants enjoyed the most out of the workshop was they actually brought their own things from their houses and created the sound effects by themselves.

“What Mihoko did with the sound design was very acoustic and hands-on,” said JFKL director Seiya Shimada.

“This time, I heard from her that for this workshop, she gave importance to creating the sound by their hands, not depending on the machine or technology.”

From Architecture Student to Set Designer

Architecture student Amalia Ab Aziz was one of the participants for the Japan-Malaysia Technical Theatre Workshop.

She heard of this event when she was working with KongsiKL, where one of her colleagues recommended her to join this workshop.

Amalia decided that she didn’t want to pursue a career in architecture, so she tried out different things.

“I try a bit of events, a bit of art installation and furniture, all the two-dimensional stuff as well. With set design, I think it’s more enjoyable because I always like being on stage. I’m not a good actor, but I like being onstage.

“It’s a nice feeling, so it will be great if I can keep going with the set designer,” she explained.

In all her years studying architecture and working as a set designer here, there are similarities between the two.

“The process itself, it’s not that different compared to how we used to do in architecture school. There’s research done and then you explore things and keep going,” Amalia said.

With set design, however, she feels that it is more focused on the technicalities involving light and sound.

“As a set designer, it’s good if you have a bit of idea of what to do with the lighting and what kind of environments that you want to feel.”

With set design, I think it’s more enjoyable because I always like being on stage, says Amalia (pic: Muhd Amin Naharul/TMR)

The difference between architecture and set design is that architecture to her feels real, but for set design, she can be as unrealistic as possible since the setup is temporary.

Therefore, with set design, she feels less pressure working on the projects.

Amalia works alongside her fellow participants Tarrant Kwok and Chua Zi Ying under the guidance of Kenichi, whom she feels is very encouraging and would probably benefit as an architecture student.

“My other peers as well — the other members in my team — they have different backgrounds, different experiences and they know a lot of things, especially within the theatre industry, which I’m not really very familiar with. I learn from them as well, which is why I enjoyed the workshop,” she said.

Amalia admitted that she felt very scared most of the time throughout the workshop, until somebody told her it’s more installation-based or environment-based. That she feels familiar as an architecture student.

“Sometimes, there are teachers who push you a lot, but I think with Kenichi, he could see what you’re going with and then, he will offer suggestions. It doesn’t mean that you have to follow them, it’s really up to you.”

Kenichi gives them a lot of freedom and he keeps telling that they’re brilliant, although Amalia herself has her doubts.

“I think the purpose of this workshop is really for the director to see what the possibilities are with doing things, especially from us people who are not so involved in theatre, what are the ideas that we can bring onto the stage.”

The full performance of “Nukegara” will be held next year.