by Yuji Sone
Tolerance and History: Theatre of the Australia–Japan Relationship
Contemporary Theatre Review
This article discusses two recent Australian-Japanese theatre productions that unearthed non-mainstream histories of the Japanese, an ethnic minority in Australia: Yoji Sakate’s Honchos Meeting in Cowra (Cowra no Hancho Kaigi) (2013–14) and Mayu Kanamori’s Yasukichi Murakami – Through a Distant Lens (2014–15). These theatre productions have been discussed in mainstream reviews positively, highlighting the writers’ awareness of ethnically diverse expression in contemporary ‘multicultural’ Australia. This article critically examines the positive responses of reviewers in terms of the powerful cultural forces of assimilation, tolerance, and multiculturalism in the Australian context. In particular, I emphasise the underlying, asymmetrical power relations of cross-cultural, historical storytelling that are indicated by the reception of these two theatre works by Sakate and Kanamori. This article highlights how Sakate’s and Kanamori’s ambivalence regarding the war-related histories that are explored in their works opens them to interpretation in terms of the rhetoric of tolerance. In short, the stories in Sakate’s and Kanamori’s productions have necessarily become ‘Australian stories’, part of Australia’s assimilative narrative of an imagined white nation in Asia. Analysing the Australian sense of national belonging, upon which such assimilative procedures rely, I argue for the inclusion of a notion of ‘non-belonging’ in debates on Australian multicultural theatre.
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