How it Began
The Tokyo Fringe Festival was founded by Japanese dancer Shakti and Australian actor Dwayne Lawler and is the official fringe festival for Japan. It is a non-juried festival held at the Shakti Studio inviting radical and daring shows.
東京フリンジ フェスティバルは、印度と日本のハーフである創作舞踊家シャクティ、 オーストラリア人俳優のドゥエイン・ロウラーによって２００７年に開始され、 日本における公式なフリンジ フェスティバルと認可されています。
世界各地で開催されるフリンジ フェスティバルは審査を伴うコンクールのような ものではなく、自由に参加することができます。
Tokyo Fringe Festival
Edinburgh’s famed Fringe Festival establishes a Tokyo beachhead
Tokyo already has the Performing Arts Market and International Arts Festival, but this week it hosts an international theater festival of a different flavor altogether. Unlike the other officially sanctioned events, the Tokyo Fringe Festival is an entirely grassroots affair.
Taking its name from Edinburgh’s eponymous event, TFF is the brainchild of Indian-Japanese dancer Shakti and Australian actor Dwayne Lawler. Shakti is known for erotic, contemporary adaptations of classical Indian dance and mythology, while Lawler’s theater studies brought him a few years ago to Japan, where he has staged avant-garde pieces including a macabre, visual kei-influenced rendition of Macbeth.
It was Shakti’s longstanding involvement with the Edinburgh Fringe that allowed them to obtain the festival’s imprimatur for Tokyo. The dancer has been running The Garage International venues at the Fringe for the past decade, growing it to four venues and hosting over 50 companies. “I was called the ‘queen of the fringe’ for my radical shows. Newspapers thrashed me in the beginning, but I kept on and finally became an icon,” she says via email from Adelaide, Australia, where she is running another Fringe event. “On top of that I proved that I have some brains and management skills and can organize and run not only one, but several venues while still doing 2-3 shows a day (and staying sane).”
The idea to do a Tokyo Fringe had been germinating for some time, but it was the meeting with Lawler that made the dancer feel it could work. Lawler suggested using the intimate Shakti Studio, which she uses to teach Indian dance and yoga. “We need something that is simple and that goes back to the basics,” she says, criticizing the expense and red tape of Tokyo theaters. “That does not mean amateurish. On the contrary, the artist has to have enough confidence and skill to hold an audience without the frills and thrills of a ‘major’ production in a ‘major’ theater.”
Putting out a call for performers via The Garage International website, Shakti and Lawler have cobbled together an eight-day festival that features seven shows representing six countries. Shakti herself will be presenting an adaptation of the great Indian epic Mahabharata, while Lawler will offer Killing Time in the Sea of Trees, which he calls a “surreal and tortuous piece taking place in the Jukai (sea of trees) of Mt. Fuji.”
Also from abroad are New Zealander Mika Haka, a gay Maori entertainer who presents “tribal cabaret” that has sold out the Edinburgh Fringe for eight straight years, and Andrew Bush, who will screen a new documentary that attempts to demystify Japan’s famous ninja.
Among the domestic performers to appear is Japanese classical dance exponent Egiku Hanayagi. Born into a long line of dancers, Hanayagi started training at age two but later began to use traditional styles to choreograph new and original pieces. Her Crane has won the Japanese government’s National Arts Award for outstanding choreography and has been performed to acclaim in Edinburgh, London and Avignon, where she is a regular performer. Also to appear is mime duo MMT, whose leader, Takemitsu Yamazawa, studied mime in Paris under famed maestro Marcel Marceau.
Shakti and Lawler have high ambitions for the future of the Tokyo Fringe Festival. “We hope to expand it throughout Japan and for it one day to be as well known as the Edinburgh or Adelaide festivals,” says Lawler. “I’d like to create a Japan Fringe Circuit,” adds Shakti. “How about having two shows in Tokyo, two in Kyoto, one in Kamakura, etc? And as I have done in all the Fringe Festivals, I will continue to do my show. I will never be too busy for that. And I am quite sure that Dwayne feels the same too.
We are born to perform.”