Late evening. We stand in the hotel foyer saying our goodbyes. Outside it has started to rain heavily. The air is full of ‘saudade’ that intermingling of sadness, joy and love that only the Brazilians have a word for.
Earlier, when we were all sharing a meal together, one of the performers, Mituyo-san said that the whole bubble of rehearsals and performances from which we were emerging made her feel as if she were in a Japanese folk tale: the story of a fisherman Urashima Tarō. He rescues a turtle and as a reward is carried on its back down to a palace at the bottom of the ocean where he receives hospitality from a princess. After a few days he decides to return home carrying a gift that he is told not to open. He discovers that he has been away for a hundred years. He opens the forbidden box and turns into an old man.
For the last two weeks’ performers Grace and Teresa from Entelechy Arts and Annu-san, Mituyo-san from Saitama Gold Theatre Tokyo have been working together on a new iteration of the street show BED. Three contrasting days of performances connecting with a range of audiences: tourists and office workers in Potters Fields by Tower Bridge, health and social care professionals from across Lewisham in the Ladywell Day Centre and Saturday afternoon shoppers from the diverse communities of south east London in Deptford Market.
There has been a gentle layering of cultural landscapes from Tokyo and London, out of which so many different stories and fragments of stories have emerged; many held together by a thin membrane of loss, longing, hope. The mother and child separated in an Irish home for unmarried mothers; the slow painful goodbye of caring for a husband living with dementia; the abandoned family dog left behind in he decontamination zone after the Fukushima nuclear melt down.
In the penultimate performance in Giffin Square, Deptford there was a moment when Annu-san in her character’s rage flung a hundred paper cranes into the autumn south London sky. The intensity of the action triggered a flock of London pigeons to take flight and for a spit moment the origami cranes and the pigeons flew together. It feels like we’re all still floating up there with them. Not planning to come down anytime soon.