by Owen Schaefer

While the idea of German theater tends to call to mind Goethe and Brecht, or perhaps more recently, the work of Peter Weiss, contemporary directors and writers have been moving in less classical directions. And in the case of German group Rimini Protokoll’s Cargo Tokyo-Yokohama—well, they just started moving the theater entirely.

Rimini Protokoll’s work falls under the classification of ‘reality trend’ theater—works that draw in the workings of the real world, often hiring non-actors as performers and breaking down the sense that theater is somehow a shadow of the real world. In Cargo Tokyo-Yokohama, directed by Jšrg Karrenbauer, the audience quite literally becomes cargo, shipped in the back of a specially (and comfortably) converted truck, which is driven by two veteran drivers who discuss their jobs, lives, and the flow of goods.

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The work first toured all across Europe, using a pair of Bulgarian drivers, but for its Japanese run involves local drivers, and as a result, is performed in Japanese.

But Cargo is just one of many performances being put on for the Festival Tokyo performing arts festival in Ikebukuro. Those who are paying attention might realize that it has been less than a year since the last time this festival came around, but the change is the result of a decision to switch the festival to a regular autumn schedule, and as a result we get more performances rather than less—never a bad thing.

And if Oktoberfest has got you hungering for still more German festival theater, you can always check out Dead Cat Bounce. During the English-language performance concerning money, speculation, power, greed, and fear, the show’s creator and director Chris Kondek will invest your ticket in real time on the London Stock Exchange. Any earnings go back to the audience. Losses? Well, they disappear to wherever it is that lost stock money goes.

There are more than 15 incredible performances connected with this run of the festival, some in English, and many not requiring language at all. From Romeo Castellucci’s ambitious three-part take on the Divine Comedy (bound to be a spectacle not soon forgotten), to Sankai Juku’s butoh work UNETSU, Festival Tokyo has proven itself to be on the cutting edge of contemporary performance.

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Festival Tokyo (Oct 23–Dec 21), various venues around Ikebukuro. For ticket prices, times and dates, go to the festival’s website: