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Tokyo Grand Guignol Theater Mercury Transcript

The following PDF is my personal transcript/recreation of the 1984 Tokyo Grand Guignol theater production Mercury (originally titled Mercuro). It was the first of four plays they would perform through their short-run between 1983 up to their disbanding in 1986. The play concerns a mysterious student who transfers to a school that’s strict and authoritarian while simultaneously having a grimy underbelly with the extracurricular activities that are hosted by a squatting hobo. The student is searching for his sister, who had gone missing just a few years prior. He was guided to the school by the moon, which constantly lingers above the school grounds. He is confident that the teacher is in some way linked with his sister’s disappearance, but while there he bears witness first-hand a more sinister secret regarding the teacher.

While the Tokyo Grand Guignol were greatly influential in the Japanese underground art circuit, info on their plays in the English corners of the web ranges from scarce to practically nonexistent. Their most well-known play is the 1985 production Litchi Light Club, sometimes also known by the title Lychee Hikari Club. Litchi started off as a play, but it would later be adapted in a highly popular manga from 2005. The manga adaption would later spawn an anime, an idol band, a movie and eventually a completely separate theater production that was based on the manga that was based on the play. Try wrapping your head around that one.

The Tokyo Grand Guignol was founded in 1983 by the experimental artist Normizu Ameya, who got his start in theater just a few years earlier in directing the plays of Kōbō Abe. He found the troupe in partial collaboration with the manga author Suehiro Maruo, who himself would later become a highly influential figure in horror manga, with one of his more popular eventual influences being the artist Junji Ito. The Tokyo Grand Guignol was a strange sort of collateral crossing between guro, Japanese cyberpunk, punk subculture and the then-current experimental music scene of the 80s. The plays were described in one source as being like punk rock concerts, with the intense moments having characters practically shouting their dialogue over booming soundscapes. Music and sound design was a main focus of these plays, with Ameya describing the plays as being an ensemble of his favorite sounds. This is evident in the varied music choices, with some of the featured music acts across the plays including Public Image LTD, The Residents, DEVO (and some of Mark Mothersbaugh’s solo work), Test Dept, Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft and SPK. Their set designs would cross derelict architecture with almost organic-looking industrial machine sculptures. One artist who clearly took influence from the Grand Guignol was the filmmaker Shinya Tsukamoto, with his film Tetsuo: The Iron Man practically being like a Tokyo Grand Guignol play itself. This is further evident in the 1985 super 8mm film rendition, Phantom Of Regular Size, which shares several of the musical artists that the Tokyo Grand Guignol featured along with special effects of the salaryman transforming into a biomechanical monster closely resembling the set design from their Litchi Light Club play.

This transcript is a rough translation of the description provided on the blog Endless Art (keikotoendlessart), combined with details provided in photos of the play and the clip that was broadcast on the TV program Youth Performance Special. The translation is rough given that I don’t speak or read Japanese. For the transcription process, I used a machine translator and picked apart the original text by sentence fragments, comparing the fragments with how the paragraphs would read out in full, sometimes even going by individual words. With what I gathered from these translations, I adapted them to the closest English terms and phrases. It’s far from a proper means of translation. There is a decent amount of guesswork going on in the process of recreating the play, so take things with a grain of salt I suppose. The full booklet is 50 pages, the first 43 pages being the transcript itself and the last several pages being personal notes I took while transcribing things along with an afterword.

View the PDF

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