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Haruki Murakami's After the Quake: A Surreal Play

Celebrated author Haruki Murakami, born in 1949, is one of many artists pointing outside Japan for inspiration to exist in the modern world. Isolation is his enemy. A highly recommended surreal play drawn from Haruki Murakami’s novel "After the Quake". Adapted for the stage by Frank Galati.

Vancouver’s Pi Theatre and Rumble Productions present the Canadian premiere.

Doubtless the most celebrated (inside and outside the country) modern-day Japanese internationalist author, Murakami indulges in flowing prose that can, at times, seem very like the so-called “magic realism” in Central American fiction. He has often asserted that good writing needs rhythm and melody, like an improvised jazz song, saying that he uses a ‘free improvisation’ style of writing, where his story just comes out through some sort of special channel like automatic writing. His characters move effortlessly between the surreal and real, inspiring many an office worker to read him on long trips to and from the office every Monday through Saturday in Japan.

"After the Quake" is based on bestselling author Haruki Murakami’s stories about life in the wake of disaster. 

In this touching play, Junpei is a timid writer who enchants Sayoko, the love of his life ever since early University days, by conjuring up stories now to soothe the anguish of her young daughter Sala, a girl who is having nightmares about the Earthquake Man. In Junpei’s soothing and fun stories, Talking Bear makes the very best honey pies, and Katagiri, a bank loans officer who must cope with underworld bank customers who are reneging on loans, struggles to distinguish between what is real and what is not when six-foot Frog, visiting Katagiri in his dining room, asks for help to fight off giant Worm for the safe future of Tokyo. Together, these stories explore the emotional aftershocks of disaster, and offer a message of hope, self actualization and healing.

From Wikipedia: “Haruki Murakami (born January 12, 1949) is a Japanese writer and translator. His works of fiction and non-fiction have garnered him critical acclaim, and he is the sixth recipient of the Franz Kafka Prize for his novel Kafka on the Shore. He is considered an important figure in postmodern literature, and The Guardian praised him as one of the “world’s greatest living novelists.”

Coming of age during the tumultuous student uprisings of the late 60s, Murakami has always been anti-establishment. He worked at a record store and as the owner of a jazz bar in Tokyo before taking on writing fulltime. He’s never opted for the traditional Japanese career path, and neither have his characters. In so doing they question the Japanese salary-man stereotype while facing headlong into the contemporary challenges Japan faces, such as suicide, depression, isolation and divorce.

Murakami, says that his work aims “to break through the isolation the Japanese have cherished for so long…so that we can talk to the rest of the world in our own words…The Japanese people have achieved material success all over the world, but they are not speaking to other people culturally…There should be a midway place where we could go to exchange information with people from other cultures.” After the quake does go to a very palpable “midway place” and find potent dreaming, nightmares, hope and self realization.

All through his work Murakami is fond of quoting great poets, philosophers and novelists, particularly foreign ones. So I offer my impressions of the play with the tools of the following quotations from Murakami writings. This appropriately surreal production enhances the fine actors, all of whom perform and embody the various roles they must enact with a kind of remove that characterizes those who dare to examine their lives, something Murakami admires immensely. The direction by Craig Hall and Richard Wolfe is on the mark and grounds the words, giving them a kind of stark framing that coordinates the acting and embodies the surrealistic elements, giving them dramatic depth.  

Memories are what warm you up from the inside, but they're also what tear you apart.
Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore

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