Monday, September 1, 2008

"World Without Sound" - 30th Anniversary of the Osaka Pantomime Group

The Osaka Pantomime Group celebrated its 30th anniversary on Saturday, August 30, 2008 with a performance in Higashi Osaka. The group has had a long and lively history, with both deaf and hearing members. The group has performed throughout Japan and the world. I have blogged in the past about their performance at a deaf school in Cambodia.

The group when originally formed in 1978 was billed as an exclusively deaf group. However many hearing people became interested and joined. Thus the themes of the performances and skits are not necessarily deaf related, they are more universal themes that both deaf and hearing people can understand.

This is not to say that deaf cultural aspects are missing from the group. The majority of the audience was deaf and were vigorously chatting away in JSL before the show and during the break. As for the performance itself, I learned there was a difference between classic pantomime and deaf pantomime. In the former, facial expression is usually absent - body movement is stressed. However with the latter facial expression is key, revealing mood and other subtleties. The excellent body movement of the Osaka Pantomime Group combined with facial expressions made simple themes such as flying kites, playing golf, riding on the train, manners and fashion shows come to life with an absence of props. Perhaps the most popular skits had to do with the interaction between a shower (played by one member) and two women, the first young and beautiful, the second old and not so attractive.

Only three people performed at this anniversary show. However many more people were involved with backstage activities. Here again deaf cultural influences are at work. Electronic devices are used to allow deaf performers and stage hands to cue communicate with each other. Pantomime takes a large time commitment that many people don't seem willing to give anymore. However, after 30 years the the curtain is not falling on the group. They promised to do their best and continue on into the future.

See a related blog about the relationship between sign language and pantomime:

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