Niwa Gekidan Penino

Octopus Monks: Ritual of Forgetting

Dangerous pleasure that clings to the body blurs the line between reality and fiction

Niwa Gekidan Penino is led by Kuro Tanino, a former psychiatrist who won the 60th Kishida Kunio Drama Award. The company has made memorable appearances at Kyoto Experiment on two previous occasions with Box in the Big Trunk and Avidya—The Dark Inn, wowing audiences with remarkably original theatrical visions expressed through the extremely refined technique of the performers as well as elaborate and bold sets.

This play takes place in a meticulous recreation of a temple. We, the audience, are invited to enter inside, where we become caught up in the ritualistic performances that the actors enact. With its eight limbs, three hearts, and nine brains, the octopus is a truly bizarre life form that seems almost extraterrestrial. That creature here serves as a symbol of the space and rites. Sutras repeat and vary. Musical instruments are strummed. Inside the closed confines of this temple hall, the air fills up with smells and clammy heat. All our senses are triggered in sync with the actors’. Surrendering the body to musical pleasure, it is nearly impossible to escape from the dangerous immersion where any grasp of time is lost. As it becomes harder and harder to distinguish reality from fiction and we go into a kind of trance-like state, what is it that we then forget?

North Hall, ROHM Theatre Kyoto
Performed in Japanese with English surtitles

Kuro Tanino

Born in 1976 in Toyama Prefecture, Kuro Tanino is the artistic director of Niwa Gekidan Penino as well as resident playwright and director. He was a Saison Foundation Senior Fellow until 2015. After launching Niwa Gekidan Penino while still a medical student in 2000, he has since written and directed all the company’s plays. He has received invitations to festivals around the world. He premiered Käfig aus Wasser in March 2015 in Germany, while Avidya: No Lights Inn won the Kishida Kunio Drama Award in 2016. Kita Nippon Shinbun Art Award in 2016, Cultural Affairs Agency Arts Festival Excellence Award in 2016 and Toyama Prize in Arts and Culture in 2019.

Niwa Gekidan Penino

Niwa Gekidan Penino was founded in January 2001 by members of a theater club at Showa University. It quickly established a reputation with its striking use of sets and space at outdoor performances or at Hakobune, a small theater built inside the director’s own apartment. The company has presented its work at major festivals in Japan on numerous occasions, including Festival/Tokyo 2009 Autumn, World Theatre Festival Shizuoka, and Kyoto Experiment. The company has also toured overseas, staging Frustrating Adult Picture Book in Berlin in 2009, followed by Zürich (Switzerland) and Groningen (the Netherlands) in 2010, when it was nominated for the prestigious ZKB Patronage Prize in Switzerland. The company won further acclaim during its five-city tour of the United States with The Room Nobody Knew in 2014. In 2015, Box in the Big Trunk was staged at Theater der Welt and Wiener Festwochen, earning five-star reviews from local critics. In 2016, the company embarked on a four-nation European tour with Avidya—The Dark Inn, once again receiving much acclaim. In 2018, it staged The Dark Master and Avidya—The Dark Inn as part of the official program for Japonismes 2018.

Playwright and DirectorKuro Tanino
CastIzuru Kinoshita, Momoi Shimada, Yuko Nagahama, Kanako Nishida, Bobumi Hidaka, Hayato Mori, Fuyuko Moriyama, Ikuma Yamada
CompositionJunichiro Tamaki, Yukiko Yamaguchi, Mario Yoshino
Stage designMichiko Inada
LightingMasayuki Abe (LICHT-ER)
MusicYu Okuda
SoundKoji Sato (Sugar Sound)
Stage managerMitsuaki Adachi, Ayaka Yoshimura
Assistant DirectorYui Matsumoto
DramaturgyMax-Philip Aschenbrenner
ProducerChika Onozuka
In co-operation withGoethe-Institut Tokyo,Kyoto City Waterworks Bureau
Planning and Production byNiwa Gekidan Penino
Supported byThe Agency for Cultural Affairs Government of Japan through the Japan Arts Council
Co-presented byROHM Theatre Kyoto (Kyoto City Music Art Cultural Promoting Foundation)
Presented byArche LLC., Kyoto Experiment