In 2017 Brisbane based Belloo Creative started a long-term collaboration with Japan’s IDIOT SAVANT theater company and New Zealand’s Good Company Arts. The companies met in Japan at the Tokyo Performing Arts Meeting and in 2018 Belloo Creative brought them all to Australia for a first creative development.
In 2020, just prior to the pandemic, they premiered their new work, House in the Dunes, in a 400-year old temple in Yokohama. But the main goal was a show for the Tokyo Tokyo Festival, to coincide with the 2020 Olympics. Little did they realise that by the time production was due to begin, the world would be facing a once in our lifetime pandemic, hampering overseas travel and decimating the arts sector.
Not to be deterred the work was not abandoned, merely postponed to 2021 to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics, resulting in a successful season in the small village of Akiruno in July 2021, thereby allowing Belloo to deliver on their vision to provide content globally across artforms that inspire imagination, collaboration and change.
Belloo Creative’s Caroline Dunphy said, “We were preparing for a production in Japan (alongside a New Zealand company) and then suddenly none of us could travel – but our ideas and some form of our art could travel, even when we couldn’t.”
Akiruno is the name of a small village, west of Tokyo, in the mountains, where the Blue Herons nest in spring and summer. The all-ages performance is named after the village and was developed in collaboration with their community, including local actors, working alongside the ensemble of IDIOT SAVANT theatre company (Japan) and artists from Belloo Creative (Australia) and Good Company Arts (New Zealand) over a period of 18 months.
A documentary on the making of this international theatre show, with collaborators from three different countries, in the middle of a global pandemic is now being released with thanks to funding from the Australian Government through the Australia-Japan Foundation of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Of the linguistic challenges co-director of Belloo Creative Katherine Lyall-Watson said, “There were so many Zoom meetings with Kay, our wonderful translator – and if you’ve ever done intercultural bilingual meetings, you’ll know that everything takes at least three times as long as it normally would!”
Running at 20mins, this documentary allows a rare insight behind the scenes into the creative process and what it truly takes to collaborate. “We’d always planned to take a documentary filmmaker to Japan with us to make AKIRUNO, and fortunately the Australia Japan Foundation were happy for us to use our funding to create a different sort of documentary – one about the process of collaborating from different countries to make a live performance in Japan,” said Dunphy.
Lyall-Watson had been asked to adapt Japanese folktales from Akiruno into a stage play for the production. “As a playwright, it’s so strange to write a play and have it staged and never have the chance to see it,” she said. “I hope it will have another life and that I’ll get to see it one day.”
The AKIRUNO documentary will be launched at an online Research Showcase from the School of Creative Practice, QUT today Friday 17th December from 1-2pm (AEST). This will be followed by a live Q&A with QUT’s Dr Kathryn Kelly and Belloo Creative’s Co-Artistic Directors Caroline Dunphy and Katherine Lyall-Watson.
Documentary concept: Caroline Dunphy & Katherine Lyall-Watson, Filming & Editing: Shaun Charles Dramaturgical research: Dr Kathryn Kelly; Original music: Daniel Belton & Good Company Arts featuring Jac Grenfell, Al Fraser and Eliahpt (Aotearoa NZ; Original test film design & projection work: Good Company Arts; AKIRUNO rehearsal footage & interviews: Kintaro Iwakura