『The Cycle of Women's Rebirth in the Pure Land Project: Vol. 1 "Patacara"』
Review by Ju Underwood April 2021
Ayumi Dakemoto's The Cycle of Women's Rebirth in the Pure Land Project Vol. 1 "Patacara"
I emerged from my encounter with the story of Patacara feeling moved, and activated by this magical, and compelling work. Dancer and actress Emi Nakae is an intensely inspiring performer, and it was no surprise to find out, via an internet search, that she is someone who lives for her practice.
Noh, even modern Noh, is such a mysterious art form. As I was watching I felt almost as if I was witnessing an activity that was not of this earth. The movements, sounds, and storyline are so disparate to the western tradition of theatre. It is these elements that make it so fascinating for a non-Japanese person.
Since the content is so multi-layered, I feel that western audiences have the opportunity to interpret it in diverse ways. Some may view it simply as an exotic example of art from a distant land, others may draw comparisons with other theatre traditions, and yet others, like myself, who are interested in, and perhaps have some knowledge of, the Japanese way of life, will find that it speaks to some of their unanswered questions about Japanese society. Recently, in discussions with Japanese friends, I have been speculating on why it is that Japanese women seem lacking in emancipation compared to women in the West, a somewhat unnerving observation I made during my first visit to Japan in 2017. My viewing of Patacara, and in particular Emi Nakae's impassioned performance, being as she is a modern day performer interpreting a historical story, gave me a glimpse of insight into this issue.
Side by side with the question of women's rights in the play, is the theme of Buddhism that emerges at the end of the plot. Buddhism is often regarded as a fringe religion in the West, and ideas about it are frequently sparse, or outdated. Using the story of Patacara's life as an analogy for the lives of contemporary women likewise brings the concept of a retreat into Buddhism into the modern arena. Being a practicing Buddhist myself, one who's beliefs run parallel with an ordinary, everyday existence, I was disconcerted by the notion presented by the play that the last available sanctuary for a woman is withdrawal from the material world to a life of religious piety. Surely in our present-day we have more to offer women, Buddhist or otherwise, than extreme choices, that, one way or another, limit our potential?
The tale of Patacara, coming down to us through the ages from ancient times, provokes this type of interrogation. It is apparent that there are still great strides to be made for women across the globe, before we will, all of us, be able to express ourselves freely and equally. How are we to continue to address the inhibiting tendencies that are so deeply embedded in society? It seems imperative that we do so.
This is the message I was left with after witnessing Patacara relinquishing the material Sahā world, the world of endurance, and, in measured steps, slowly leaving the stage.
Ju Underwood Artist https://juunderwood.weebly.com/
Written by Akiko Yanagisawa: Akiko Yanagisawa (Mu: Arts)
The Cycle of Women's Rebirth in the Pure Land Project
Vol. 1 - The Soundless Voices of Asian Women
by Ayumi Dakemoto
In the 21st century, when the Me Too (#MeToo) movement has sparked an outpouring of anger and solidarity among women across the globe, it may seem as if we have parted from the ancient tradition of suppressing the voices of women. Yet the fight against gendered violence and inequality continues, as evidenced in daily news headlines.
Ayumi Dakemoto, a multi-award-winning Japanese playwright and director, sheds light on the history of women's inequality in Asia. Her three-part theatre production The Cycle of Women's Rebirth in the Pure Land dramatizes women's lives in Asia, where religious rules and authority have traditionally impaired women's rights and freedoms.
The first part of the trilogy, "Patacara", is set in sixth-century India, where Patacara, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant, endures intense hardships after escaping an arranged marriage. She runs away with a young servant of the lowest caste, with whom she later has two children. A series of tragic events follows, resulting in the dramatic deaths of her husband and children. In desperation, Patacara returns to her hometown, where she discovers that a fire has killed her family and burned their house to ground. Completely shattered and grief-stricken, she goes insane.
In search of salvation, Patacara travels thousands of miles over many years and, finally, in old age, encounters a Buddhist community (Sangha) in which she finds spiritual refuge, and she renounces her existence in the Sahā world to become the first female disciple of Buddhism. The story of Patacara illustrates the dominance of the Laws of Manu, ancient legal commandments that form part of the constitution of Hinduism, over the rights of women. The laws decree:
• A woman must obey her father, her husband and, in old age, her son.
• A woman has no right to independence.
• A woman must be patient, obedient, chaste and follow one husband only. Though he be bad, ugly, old, selfish and ill-tempered, she must respect and serve her husband as if he were a god.
Patacara goes against them and suffers unbearable ordeals because she is a woman of a rare beauty.
The Laws of Manu arrived in Japan, via China, Korea and Vietnam, in the form of culture such as music and religion. Their commandments have long been embedded in Japanese society.
Here, Patacara's tormented journey is illustrated exquisitely by actor and dancer Emi Nakae.
The drama is accompanied throughout by music based on the storytelling of the jiutai chorus and Noh music (shi-byoshi), which comprises nohkan flute, kotzuzumi shoulder drum, otsuzumi hip drum and taiko stick drum. Until very recently, women were banned from appearing in professional Noh performances. Gidayu shamisen playing merges with sounds from the Indian music scale, capturing the play's setting.
Today, are women still to experience such suffering? Where can women find refuge in parts of the world where they are still forbidden from self-discovery and self-expression? We need answers for modern women whose existence is still subdued or denied by traditional systems and rules. We hear their voices resonate in the drama of Patacara.
Written by Akiko Yanagisawa: Akiko Yanagisawa (Mu: Arts) is a London-based curator and producer of music and performing arts, encouraging genre-defying, cross-cultural collaborations by engaging with traditional Japanese artforms, including Noh.
上演記録 会場 座・高円寺２
舞台監督 逸見輝羊／今宮稜正（stage company）
制作協力 竹内洋(株)Hermann MacCartney
協力 光照山 西徳寺／銕仙会／月白亭 杉田 光照／劇舎カナリア／あるでばらん