A Kabuki theatre, coloured woodcut triptych by Utagawa Toyokuni, c. 1800; in the British Museum

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A Farce

  by Yoshiro Takayasu (translated by Toshiya Kamei)

M

atsuko had been at loose ends ever since her only son left home and started college. Then Kiiko, a friend from her high school days, came to visit her. Back in high school, she was in the drama club, and now she was a member of a small theater group that mainly consisted of their high school friends. Kiiko came to suggest Matsuko join the theater group. Matsuko, too, had some experience acting in the drama club, so she decided to join right away. Matsuko’s husband was a serious and kind man who worked in the town office. When Matsuko joined the theater group and got home from practice late at night, he didn’t complain one bit, and he was supportive, saying that he would go to see their performance sometime. The theater group was at a crossroads. The audience seemed to have grown tired of what they had performed up until that point, and they increasingly felt the need to tackle something new for the group’s survival. It was then that the leader fell ill and was hospitalized, and Kiiko was chosen to replace him. “The leader said he would leave it to us to come up with an idea for a new play,” Kiiko said. A few days later, they agreed to give comedy a try. “What are we going to do about a script? It’s boring to do an existing scenario. I don’t think we’ll find anything good.” “It’s no use copying the Yoshimoto comedy troupe.” “Yeah, slapstick isn’t art.” “No, theater is entertainment. We should forget about art.” “I disagree. Theater is a comprehensive art form.” They continued to argue until they realized it was past midnight. “Matsuko, you forgot to call your husband. He’ll go ballistic,” Kiiko said. “Don’t worry. My husband is so nice to me.” “That’s a telltale sign that he has something to hide. Some husbands are good to their wives because they keep mistresses.” Matsuko laughed her off. A few days later, Kiiko said, “Say, what about the story of a woman who makes a bet whether her husband will cheat on her? A friend of hers who bets against her seduces her husband in order to win the bet. It will make you anxious watching him almost succumb to temptation. In the end, he goes back to his wife, and they live happily ever after.” “Oh, that sounds like me and my husband. I want to play the role of the wife if that’s okay with you. But I don’t understand why she’s jealous.” “Well, you agree, Matsuko. How about you all?” All those who were present that day agreed, and it was decided immediately that Kiiko would write a script. “This play won’t use funny dialogues to make the audience laugh, but we’ll entertain them by presenting the suspicious behaviors of men and women in a comical manner. So it’ll have fewer dialogues than a normal play, but we’ll spend the same amount of time. Your acting skills will be tested.” Before anyone knew it, Kiiko volunteered to direct the play. Shortly after she started writing the script, she began to frequent Matsuko’s house. “I can’t quite grasp the character of the serious husband. Let me observe your husband.” While sipping her tea, Kiiko glanced at Matsuko’s husband. One month had passed. Once the script was finished, they began reading through their parts together. “I find it difficult to play this character because I’ve never been jealous,” Matsuko said. “What are you talking about? Too late to back down now.” “Because my husband only has eyes for me. I’m too happy to play an unhappy character.” Matsuko seemed to brag about her married life. One Sunday, Kiiko visited Matsuko’s house while she was out shopping. She whispered something to Matsuko’s husband, who was in the garden by himself. When Matsuko returned from shopping, Kiiko suddenly clung to her husband. “What are you doing, Kiiko? What are you two doing?” Matsuko shouted, throwing her shopping bag on to the floor. “Now you know how it feels like to be jealous, don’t you? I asked your husband to play along.” “You’re lying, Kiiko,” Matsuko said. “Is it true, honey?” she asked her husband. “Yes, she did.” “It’s a lie. I’m sorry, but could you leave, Kiiko?” Matsuko was so snappish that Kiiko left, unable to calm her down. Matsuko never went back to the theater group. “It was really her idea. You’re not thinking about divorcing me, are you?” her husband said a few days later. “Of course not. It would be a farce to get a divorce now,” Matsuko said, glaring angrily at him.  

About the author & translator:

Yoshiro

Yoshiro Takayasu lives in Togane, Chiba, where he edits Village Tsushin. He is the author of several poetry collections, including Mukashi mukashi (1982) and Jigenkyo (1987). In the US, Toshiya Kamei has published English translations of his fiction and poetry in The Broken Plate, The Dirty Goat, Gargoyle Magazine, Metamorphoses, Nebo, and Visions International, among others.

一人息子が大学生になり家を離れると松子は急に手持ちぶさたになった。 そんな折、松子の女子高時代の仲間のキー子が尋ねてきた。キー子は高校時代 演劇部に所属していたが、現在その時の仲間を中心にして作った小さな劇団の一 員だった。キー子は松子に劇団に入るよう勧めに来たのだ。松子も少しばかり演 劇部にいた経験もあってすぐに入団したのである。 松子の夫は町役場に勤めるまじめで優しい男だった。松子が劇団に入団し練習 で夜遅く帰宅しても文句一つ言わず、「今度見に行くよ」と応援さえしてくれた。 劇団は丁度過渡期にあった。これまで公演してきた出し物は観客が見飽きてい るようで、劇団存続の為にも何か新しい物に挑戦すべきだという機運が高まって いた。丁度そんな時期にリーダーが体調を崩して入院し、キー子が座長を仰せつ かっていたのだ。 「新しい劇のアイディアはみんなに任せるとリーダーは言ってたわ」キー子は呼 びかけた。数日して出された案は喜劇に挑戦しようということだった。 「喜劇の台本はどうすんの。既成のシナリオじゃつまんないし。良い物もないわ」 「吉本の真似したってしょうがないしね」 「そうよ、どたばたは芸術じゃないもの」 「いいや演劇は娯楽よ。芸術なんて思わなけりゃいい」 「そりゃ違う。演劇こそ総合芸術よ」 侃々諤々の議論を戦わせ、気がつくと夜中の十二時を過ぎていた。 「松子、旦那さんに電話するの忘れてるでしょ。怒られるぞ」キー子が言った。 「大丈夫。家の人、私には優しいのよ」 「優しいってのはあやしいんだよ。女が居るから女房に優しってこともあるし」 キー子の冗談を松子は一笑に付した。 それから数日後のことだった。 「ねえ、自分の旦那が浮気をするかしないかの賭をする話はどう?賭をした友達 は賭に勝つために夫を誘惑するのよ。誘惑に負けそうになる夫にハラハラしなが ら、最後に妻の所に帰ってきてハッピーエンドってのは」 「あら、私の家がモデルみたいね。良かったら私がその妻の役をやりたいわ。で も焼き餅を焼く女の気持ち、分かんないな」 「じゃあ松子は賛成ね。他のみんなは どう?」 その日集まっていた者はみな賛成し、早速キー子がシナリオを書くことになった。 「この劇は台詞で笑わせるんじゃなくて、男と女の怪しい動作をコミカルに演じ ることで楽しませるのよ。だから台詞は普通の劇より少ないけど同じ時間をかけ るの。演技力が要求されるわよ」 キー子はいつの間にか監督役を買って出ていた。台本書きが始まって間もなく、 キー子は松子の家に足繁く尋ねてくるようになった。 「まじめな旦那のイメージが掴めないの。松子のご主人ちょっと参考にさせてね」 茶を飲みながら松子の夫をちらちら見ながら観察した。 それから一月が過ぎた。 台本も完成し読み合わせが始まると松子は言った。 「私、やっぱり焼き餅なんか焼いたことないから難しいなあ」 「なに言っているのよ今更」 「だって内の人、私一筋だから。幸せな人間には不幸は演じられないのよ」 松子はそんなのろけたようなことを言った。 そんなある日曜日のことだった。松子が買い物に出ている間にキー子が尋ねて 来ると、一人で庭に居た夫君に何やら耳打ちをした。やがて松子が買い物から帰 ってくると、キー子はいきなり夫君の胸にすがりついた。それを見た松子は、 「何やってんのよキー子。あなたもどういうつもりなのよ」 買い物袋をたたきつけながら大声を出した。 「分かった?焼き餅の気持ち。今ご主人に頼んで演技して貰ったの」 「嘘でしょ。本当なのあなた」 「そう。今頼まれて」 「嘘だわ。悪いけどキー子帰ってよ」 松子の剣幕にキー子は取り付く島もなく帰って行った。松子はそれっ きり劇団に顔を出すことはなくなった。数日して夫君は 言った。 「この間のあれ、本当に頼まれたんだ。離婚なんて考えてないよな」 すると松子 は目をつり上げながら言った。 「あたりまえよ。これで離婚したら本当の喜劇じゃないの」