Welcome to Japan

From food to bathroom etiquette, public transport to comedy show audiences, Takashi Wakasugi is welcoming Adelaide to an hour of irreverent observational humour.  Having gotten his comedy legs under him as a university student in Sydney, Wakasugi is in the perfect position to make cultural comparisons between Australia and Japan, and he isn’t afraid to be a little x-rated (consider this a forewarning if you’re planning on attending the show with your grandmother).

Welcome to Japan moves seamlessly between everything from sex jokes and critiques of Western porn, to a performance of original haikus. There are reenactments, props, audience interaction, and a good sense that nothing is off limits. But while the routine makes use of a number of comedic devices, where it really shines is during Wakasugi’s direct observations, a point emphasised when the microphone made a dramatic lapse into silence halfway through the show, and he spent a handful of minutes interacting with the audience on the fly, maintaining the show’s momentum without breaking a sweat.

While the comedy routine creates laughs a-plenty, on the occasion a joke fell flat Wakasugi integrated the moment into his routine with grace and ploughed ahead with gusto. This ability to roll with the crowd, alongside an evident love for both cultures, carried the audience comfortably through the less polished three-quarter mark of the show.

There’s a lot that’s covered and poked fun at over the course of the hour, from his experience working in an office job in Japan, to the trials and tribulations of being a backpacker working on a farm in Australia, and perhaps most importantly, the dangers of getting a tattoo in a language you don’t understand. Together, the anecdotes provide a lighthearted introduction to Japanese culture and humour, while also reflecting on the best and most confusing parts of Australian culture.

3.5 / 5 stars


Words by Rachael Stapleton

Welcome to Japan is showing until February 29

For more information and to book tickets click here

The Hunting

Every now and then we are gifted with a piece of art that forces us to confront our biggest fears and society’s greatest misgivings and this is exactly what the Australian mini-series The Hunting has done. This four-part drama which aired on SBS last Thursday, follows the release of nude photos in two Adelaide high schools and the irreversible impact this has on the students, families, and educators. Closer Productions, a collective of accomplished Adelaide-based filmmakers, present an exploration of sexuality and its intersections with gender and culture, offering a complex and genuine portrayal of adolescent life in Australia.  Creators Sophie Hyde and Matthew Cormac, and directors Hyde and Ana Kokkinos have produced a compelling and intuitive series that doesn’t shy away from explicit themes.

In the opening scene we meet Zoe and Andy, played by Luca Sardelis and Alex Cusack respectively. Cybersex is the catalyst for the dramas that arise between these characters – betrayal and a breakdown of trust. Zoe and Andy stand as accurate, in-depth representations of how adolescents explore their sexuality, and the different pressure experienced as a result of masculinity and femininity. Alongside Zoe and Andy, we see Kavitha Anandasiyam play Amandip, a young Indian teenager, and Yazeed Daher play Nassim, a Lebanese teenage boy. Together these characters spark an exploration into the impact culture has on the sexual development of adolescents. Through the character of Amandip, audiences see how conflicting expectations between ethnic home life and wider Australian society generates a fear that leads to secrets, and secrets which create a gulf between parents and their children. Like many young people, Amandip is living two separate lives, both of which she understands, respects and wants to be a part of.

These young adults should be highly commended for their mature, layered performances; such brave and captivating portrayals show the reality of adolescent life in the 21st century.  Mirroring these teenage couples is a sexual relationship which develops between two teachers, played by Jessica De Gouw and Sam Reid. This relationship proves significant as it reflects how the gender constructions and sexual insecurities acquired in adolescence are carried into adulthood: present in the bedroom, the workplace, and nights spent at a bar swiping through Tinder.

The parental representation in The Hunting is diverse. There is everything from a progressive lesbian couple to conservative migrant parents to those who have a grave disconnect from the reality of their children’s lives. Because of these vast representations, every parent will find a way into this series. This production may also serve as a wakeup call, as it demonstrates how society as a collective has provided insufficient education around sex and sexuality to teenagers. There are gaps – no, potholes – in in the way we conceptualise and discuss sex, sexual identity, and relationships with our young people: these holes form when no institution, whether it be school or home, takes responsibility for thorough and wholistic sexual education. The result? Teenagers enter the infinite and unregulated world of the internet because they are naturally curious.

The Hunting doesn’t throw a blanket over all adolescents. It doesn’t paint them all as basic, angsty individuals, but as complex and inquisitive beings.  This show also doesn’t suggest that parents further discipline their children, regulate their behaviour, or keep their teenagers on a shorter leash. Instead, this show exposes the need to guide, educate, and form open, honest connections with young people in order to empower them to make smart decisions. This needs to be done in schools and at home. There is a need to educate about the power of their bodies and the effects of their actions in this virtual and tangible world that is often unforgiving. This education can’t be done with a whiteboard or a slideshow or by taking notes. This requires two-way conversations that are constructive, comprehensive, and tolerant.

I would like to finish by saying that I wish The Hunting existed when I was in my adolescence: a show that didn’t skip over the darker conflicts of teenage life and didn’t bury its head in the sand in regard to how teenagers interact with each other. I say this not only because I, like many, relate to the young people in this series, but because I believe it would have educated parents and teachers on the need to more effectively relate to young people; it would have started important conversations; and it would have been a means of showing the teenage experience without demonising the teenager.

Catch up on the first episode on SBS On Demand and tune in for Episode 2 on SBS Thursday 8:30pm.


Words by Michelle Wakim

When Female Footballers Take the Field

In Australia it is difficult to pin-point our national identity. We don’t have a great or resolved history; heck, a lot of us don’t take any pride in our history at all.  Many of us don’t have faith in our politicians. We are without an overarching religion that strongly unites our nation. We have a few successful artists, but I doubt we are defined by them.

As we are about to write off hope for a national identity, we remember our sporting culture. For many, sport is a way of learning the power of compassion, acceptance, and unity. Sport grants us with important life lessons and our most valuable friendships. For some, sport is a way of conceptualising and resolving the dark corners of our history and a way of grasping our political matters; for others, sport serves as both religion and entertainment.

In recent history, we have made every attempt to use sport as a peace-keeper, and on successful occasions it has transcended prejudice and discrimination. We hold our sporting pride close and are fiercely protective of it. From where I am standing, AFL as our national game is the centre of our sports governed moral compass. I must say that the AFL is in no way blemish free: for a long time, the AFL, with all its societal influence, exclusively represented the traditional white male identity, which is the catalyst for a plethora of issues. But now, in our developing society, we have moved past this limited representation. When male footballers speak of illness, mental health, racism or equality our nation listens. And when female footballers take the field, people flock by the thousands to show their support.

On the 31st of March 2019, the AFLW Grand Final saw us redefine our Australian sporting culture, translating to a progression in our national identity.

The 50,000 plus fans elevated these female athletes to a status above a ‘pre-game’ special. There was no lesser version of the game – as critics like to call it – to be seen that day: these women displayed skill, cohesion, ball movement and strength that silenced those who constantly sit back and only compare our game to that of children. As records were broken and tears were shed, this larger than life spectacle brought triumphs by the tonne, if only measured by the sheer amount of people packed into Adelaide Oval.

I would like to make a comment about leadership within our game. There isn’t a more concrete display of masculinity than what is seen in the role of a traditional football captain: leadership in itself is masculine, but in a space dominated by lad culture, where aggression is at its core, masculinity can be heightened to the point of toxicity. We may expect our female captains to lead in the same way, however, recent discussions about a woman’s approach to leadership have questioned if they should endeavour to lead with the same masculine approach or whether it is more effective to bring feminine qualities to the position – looking at Jacinda Ardern as a role-model.

Here our co-captains, Chelsea Randall and Erin Phillips in their guernseys and football shorts, display everything that our game has kept at arm’s length:

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As leaders, Randall and Phillips embodied the femininity society assigned to them as women and gifted it to the world of football: it is a gift the AFL never knew it needed. These captains owned emotion and sensitivity, while simultaneously displaying veracious strength. They took time to celebrate vulnerability and the individual. They offered difference in leadership, a difference that was not deficient, lacking or sub-par, but equally as powerful and equally as impacting.

These leaders brought together the qualities that are traditionally separated into categories of masculine or feminine and generated a new sense of humanity in this sport. They, and the teams that follow their lead, revolutionised our national game, opening doors, building bridges and welcoming in people who have never wanted to be a part of football. They set an example, showing that there is now more than one way to lead a football team, there is more than one way to define strength in the Australian identity.

Simply, these women chose to lead as women.

When we are old and grey, we will tell our grandchildren that we were there on that day. We were there to see a group of individuals love the game in all its authenticity and cherish the opportunity they were given to play it. We were there to see them break records on a stage they so rightfully deserve. We were there to see our nation embrace football – and consequently the women who play it – in its new and equal form.

I hope that every AFLW player knows that they are adored. I hope they know that they are part of something bigger than themselves, that they are inspiring change and triggering movement in a sport and society that has stood steadfast in its ways for most of its history. I hope they know their actions have allowed every female with a connection to the football world, from spectators to grassroots players to team managers, to feel a new sense of safety, respect and belonging in Australian culture.

The greatest part of all this? It’s only the beginning.

 


Words by Michelle Wakim

Photo by Sandro Schuh on Unsplash

Greek Comedian of the Year

Greek Comedian of the Year, presented at the Howling Owl, Griffins Hotel and the Austral, was one of the most enjoyable and engaging pieces of comedy at the Fringe this season I’ve seen. George Zacharopoulos, the self-titled “Greek Comedian of the Year”, stood before audiences night after night sharing stories from his upbringing in Kalamata, Greece, and his experiences living in the UK for the last fifteen years. This show had everything from embarrassing childhood stories to circumcision, dating with children, and cultural conflicts.

The way Zacharopoulos’ conversed with audience was charming and effortless, enhancing every aspect of his material; he made sure to identify the Greeks in the room, and those of other cultures – Lebanese, Italians and Vietnamese at the show I attended. For those without an ethnic background, this show will give you a hilarious and honest insight into the quirks of Greek culture. For those with any form of ethnic background, this show will ring home loud and true, and you will find yourself relating to our charismatic comedian from the get-go. You will walk away from this show feeling like you took a trip to your country of origin, or you dropped into a family dinner.

Zacharopoulo’ writing and material had depth, and the humour was witty and perceptive; this combined with his relaxed presence on stage, made for a comfortable and amusing evening that reminded me greatly of the enjoyment I feel when watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

George Zacharopoulos, if you are reading this, I was the Lebanese reviewer in the front row at one of your last shows at the Austral. I have been harping on about your show ever since, and I will be advocating for people to see you perform on your return to Adelaide next year!

4.5 stars


Words by Michelle Wakim

Mutating Roots

The main performer of Mutating Roots is Japanese Australian circus artist Mayu Muto. She uses dance and acrobatics to weave her story of cultural loss, gendered assumptions, and becoming cross cultural.

Muto’s physical performances are amazing. Her dance and acrobatic skills were mesmerizing. Watching her spin around and descend I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Muto’s performance was complimented by her incorporation of a wooden cage. This cage helped convey feelings of helpless-ness and being trapped.

Dressing up as a Japanese schoolgirl was another highlight, it offered both a comedic relief while also discussing a wider issue in terms of gender stereotype, particularly with Japanese women.

Although kept to a minimum, the dialogue that was used was powerful. They spoke of fear and anger that the performer had encountered. Those few words conveyed so much feeling and emotion while only being extremely short.

While I did find the show enjoyable, I had a lot of trouble with following the overall story. I found myself lost throughout the performance and wasn’t sure I knew what was happening. Unfortunately, I only grasped the story two-thirds the way through which was disappointing.

Mutating Roots is an intriguing performance. Muto has some heart-stoppingly amazing dances and her spoken word section is well done. However, my confusion as to what was happening did dampen my experience.

 


Mutating Roots is playing at Gluttony’s Empire Theatre until March 3, to find out more follow the link.

3.5 Stars

Words by Cameron Lowe

Getting Lost in the Art of Edvard Munch in Tokyo

I stand in the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, my pupils dilating as I catch sight of Edvard Munch’s The Scream. I have seen this painting so many times through pop culture, but nothing has prepared me for seeing it in real life. It’s really here, right in front of me. Well, at least one version of it (1910 tempera and oil version). I become lost in its world, feeling the terrors the person in the painting is feeling.

The Scream was one of the many paintings exhibited at the Munch: A Retrospective exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. The exhibition celebrates the life of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944). Being in Tokyo at the time of this exhibition, I made sure I explored the show. Little did I know I would find myself lost in the world of his art while there. I found myself on a journey through loneliness, love, fear and trauma.

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With language barriers, I was left to interpret Munch’s works in my own way. As with many things I have previously experienced, my interpretations relate back to pop culture. The Kiss (1897) was one example of this. The way the couple were morphing together, it was much like the one R.J. McReady and Dr. Blair found at the Norwegian base in John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). I later found out this painting was in fact depicting how two people unify in love.

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Excluding The Scream, the paintings that made the most impact on me were Two Human Beings, The Lonely Ones (1933-35), and The Sun (1916). My interpretation of Two Human Beings, The Lonely Ones was how lost these two people were in a strange new world. I thought of them being the only two humans on an alien planet or the last two on Earth. The Sun stood like a shining beacon at the dawn of a new world, one unfamiliar to the one we live in. These two paintings combined together drew me into a world where the everyday as we know it is gone. I began connecting them to Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, a book I’d recently read. I imagined these two people staring out over a world with a bright beacon rising over the horizon and children dancing through the forests that cover the ruins of once great cities.

This exhibition had me one more surprise for me, in the form of Pokémon. Made specifically for this event, there were folders, postcards and even TCG cards where The Scream was redone using Pokémon as souvenirs from the exhibition. These stood out to me as much as the visuals of the paintings themselves. Unlike most of Munch’s artworks, these were familiar to me. The way they were made though, not only was adorable but uncanny. These souvenirs were unique to the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum.

Stepping back into the world, which was still unfamiliar to me, I smile. The exhibition was worth the 1600 yen (AUD$18) entry fee. Munch’s paintings spoke to both my creative side and allowed me to understand him better as an artist, despite the language barriers. I feel this was aided more due to experiencing it in Japanese rather than its original Norwegian. It became one of the highlights of my journey and I recommend to anyone who is going to Japan to check out a major exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum.


Words by Cameron Lowe

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2
Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.