Nuhikun  –   Directions to Servants

Laboratory of Theatre Play Ban’yū Inryoku


Terayama Shūji

Director, music

J.A. Seazer


Keitoku Takata

Set design, costumes, make-up

Nobutaka Kotake

Production manager

Ogasawara Mikio

Assistant production manager

Satō Shiho


Ozaki Hiroyuki


Yamazaki Kayo, Masamura Sanami


Hatano Uno, Mitsumata Haruka


Keitoku Takata, Kobayashi Rie, Kobayashi Keita, Kinoshita Mizuho, Tobinaga Kiyoshi, Mori Yōko, Imamura Hiroshi, Tachikawa Ryō, Sakurako Yamada, Hideyuki Okaniwa, Soda Akihiro, Yokoyama Seiko, Tobita Daisuke, Karasawa Hiroshi, Katō Kazuma , Mitsumata Haruka , Kabuto Miyoshi


Japanese with Polish and English captions



Running time 

110 min

Age limit 

18+. Small farm animals are used in the performance, but none are harmed.

Terayama Shūji (1935-1983)

It would be difficult to find another Japanese artist like Terayama Shūji (1935-1983). Although he has been gone for nearly 40 years now, recollections of him become more and more alive every year, and his art continues to evoke such incredible emotions. Having begun his artistic career under the motto of misemono no fukken (restoration of the spectacles), Terayama went on to become one of the most important innovators in the avant-garde theater and cinema in history. He is remembered as an unsurpassed intellectual, a non-conformist and unyielding workaholic, not to mention being a subversive individual who never shied away from scandal, an enfant terrible who re-envisioned Japanese tradition in an emphatic way. Known internationally primarily as the founder of the alternative theater troupe Tenjō Sajiki, he gradually knocked down the barrier between stage and audience. One could love him or hate him: while Akihiko Senda – a prolific and influential theater critic – praised his plays as an example of original meta-art, Roland H. Wiegenstein from Germanycomplained that Japanese thugs and their powerful karate punches foiled his attempt to escape the venue; he was blunt in his condemnation of Terayama, giving him a bashing in Der Spiegel titled ‘Hitler was better’. Today, such stories are hard to believe. How can one explain the enigmatic disappearance of Hans Buruma, a spectator who ‘dissolved into thin air’ during a performance at the Mickery Theater? Just what did the actors do that saw them end up in court after their performances of Mōjin Shokan (Letter on the Blind)in Poland in 1973? Would it possible these days to put on a performance in the streets in which the potential spectators are being packed into wooden boxes and then transported into the unknown?

For Japan of the 60s/70s, the time when Terayama founded Tenjō Sajiki, was an era of post-war trauma and great upheaval. The ratification of the asymmetrical Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security with the United States caused perpetual student protests at the University of Tokyo and contributed to the counterculture movement. Although it would be difficult to compare Terayama to American Beatniks, it should be noted that his vagabond lifestyle, anti-establishment artistic work, incitement to sexual revolution and manifesting art in the streets together with a team made up of actors, runaways, street musicians, transvestites and dissenters who, for an average viewer, must have been seen as a rather peculiar curiosity - all of this meant that Terayama was no less important to the Japanese counterculture than Ellen Stewart, Judith Malina, Julian Beck, Jonas Mekas and Andy Warhol were to the counterculture in the United States. Terayama’s major theatrical masterpieces include: : The Hunchback of Aomori (1967), The Mink Marie (1967), Inugami (1969), Heretics (1971), Nuhikun – Directions to Servants (1978), Shintokumaru (1978), The Lemmings (1979), One Hundred Years of Solitude (1981), among others. Finally, his semi-autobiographical poetic film Pastoral Hide and Seek entered the 1975 Cannes Festival where it was highly acclaimed and compared to Federico Fellini's masterpiece 8 ½. A metamorphosing alchemist dissolving barriers between reality and fiction, he presented his works at the most prestigious venues and festivals, such as: The Mickery Theater in Amsterdam, La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, The Shiraz-Persepolis Festival, Le Festival Mondial de Théâtre in Nancy, being then compared to such prominent figures as: Peter Brook, Robert Wilson, Jerzy Grotowski, Tadeusz Kantor. Terayama met Kantor for the first time in 1974 at the theatre symposium in France organized by Jean-Louis Barrault and then in 1982 at The Toga Festival held by Suzuki Tadashi in Japan when they discussed The Dead Class.  Shortly before his death, Terayama dedicated one of his essays to Kantor in Introduction to Internal Organs Replacement, where he concludes with Kantor’s saying that the mannequins also have their own version of transgression.

Terayama's art is, after all, an attempt to come to terms with demons of the past, fears and complexes, but also with the figure of a possessive and unyielding mother: beloved and merciful on the one hand, hated and diabolical on the other. In the end, the act of creating appears to be the main drive in a struggle with a progressive disease-the very opposite of an organism expressing the will to live. Terayama mythologized space, mixing elements of fiction and folklore with autobiographical features, creating de facto quasi-biographical works, which were an expression of his undoubted longing for childhood and were strongly associated with the Aomori prefecture, a special realm of the sacred that was completely destroyed during the war. Terayama's ultimate goal was to carry out a revolution in everyday life – a revolution based not on political power, but rather on his own imagination. This sometimes caused a scandal and at other times was like an explosive charge hidden inside a building; it sometimes appeared as a kind of Blanquism propagated on city streets or a show of magic tricks.

Memory of Terayama is not waning. In Misawa, one can visit a museum commemorating the artist that was modeled on the home theater of the Tenjō Sajiki troupe. Countless souvenirs, posters, manuscripts, letters, films, books, and multimedia materials have been collected in a space of eight hundred square meters, where guests can roam around freely. Furthermore, on May 4th every year, the anniversary of Terayama's death, his family and friends, actors and fans gather at his grave to share a meal, reminisce and honor his memory by celebrating the artist's life together.

About Laboratory of Theatre Play Ban'yū Inryoku

When the Theatre Laboratory Tenjō Sajiki was dissolved on July 31, 1983, Laboratory of Theatre Play Ban’yū Inryoku was formed by J.A. Seazer and by over 30 members of former Tenjō Sajiki. The name of company Ban’yū Inyroku comes from Terayama’s remark: Ban’yū Inryoku is a power of solitude that makes people attract to each other. Nowadays, the crew consist of several permanent members, however for each performance, they welcome actors and trainees from outside. Latest productions are: A Story Sewn and Bound with a Red Thread (2018), Education for Madmen (2018), The Cenci (2019), Prometheus(2021), Hunchback of Aomori (2021).

J.A. Seazer

Born in 1948 in Miyazaki prefecture, entered Tenjō Sajiki in 1969 after Terayama suggested he should become his pivotal composer. The co-director of Terayama Shūji’s plays, nowadays the leader of Laboratory of Theatre PlayBan'yūInryoku formed in 1983, immediately after Terayama’s death. J.A. Seazer co-directed almost all the theatre pieces at Tenjō Sajiki, combining experimental rock with opera. Major music compositions include Ship of Fools, Heretics, Shintokumaru. He also composed music for Tearayama’s feature films; Boxer (1977), Death in the Country (1974), Farewell to the Ark (1984). Since he founded Laboratory of Theatre PlayBan'yūInryoku in 1983, he has been directing and composing music for almost all the theatrical pieces. Seazer directed not only domestic productions, but also  overseas performances, such as SUNA that was granted the Fringe First award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1986, Julius Caesar in three parts that was performed in Greece, as well as Strindberg’sadaptation of A Dream Play in Romania. Laboratory of Theatre PlayBan'yūInryoku primarily toured Nuhikun to London, Frankfurt and Copenhagen in 1990, Brazil in 2015, and finally to Poland and Hong Kong in 2019. His rock opera score for the animation Revolutionary Girl Utena became his tour de force and is being notably referred to in numerous scenic adaptations of the movie. Up until 2018 he gave live concerts with his band J.A. Seazer & Akuma no Ie. His latest theatre productions are Shintokumaru (2017), The Lemmings (2017), A Story Sewn and Bound with a Red Thread (2018), Education for Madmen (2018), Prometheus (2021), The Hunchback of Aomori (2021). Soundtrack from Nuhikun being published by Devoted Art Propaganda marks the first release of J.A. Seazer’s works outside Japan.

Takata Keitoku

Co-Director, co-founder and actor at Theatre Laboratory Tenjō Sajiki. After he joined Tenjō Sajiki in 1979, he appeared in many theatrical productions in Japan and abroad. His acting career is not only limited to theatrical plays, but also encompasses more physically-oriented productions, such as contemporary dances (butoh). Takata Keitoku used to work with many directors from abroad, for instance: Simon Mcburney (U.K.), Jossi Wieler (Germany), Teresa Ludovico (Italy). With Simon Mcburney, he worked on The Elephant Vanishes and Shunkin that premiered in Japan, and then toured worldwide to Barbican Theatre in London, Lincoln Center in New York City.

Kotake Nobutaka

Born in 1950 in Tokyo. Designer for set, costumes, make-up artist, art director at Tenjō Sajiki. He designed all the theatre pieces and films by Terayama Shūji between 1975 and 1983 such as Nuhikun - Directions to Servants, Knock, Ship of Fools, One Hundred Years of Solitude. Later he has offered his designs to theatre/opera productions by such directors as Michael Nyman, Robert Lepage, Ninagawa Yukio, Shirai Akira. In 1991 when he was the artistic director at the Spiral Hall in Tokyo,  he launched a theatrical exploration: creating a theatre piece only by using décor in New Machine Theatre, The Adventures of Baron Münchausen. As a sculptor, Kotake exhibited his works with Jean Tinguely for Les Machines Sentimentaes/Kansho no Kikaiten at Pompidou Centre and Avignon Festival, France and for Automates et Robot/Otomata to Robotto ten in Reims, France and in Thessalonik, Greece. Emeritus professor at Musashino Art University. He has been awarded New York ADC Award, ACC Award for TV commercials, Yomiuri Theatre Award.

Nuhikun - Directions to Servants

Nuhikun – Directions to Servants was first performed as the public workshop at the Tokyo Harumi International Trade Center and then toured in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, UK, Italy, America and France, finally Poland and Hong Kong in 2019. This is Terayama’s most representative piece, which has been performed over 100 times in over 30 cities in the world. Furthermore, Laboratory of Theatre PlayBan'yūInryoku has performed it about 50 times from 1989 to 1991 and from 2003 to 2005 in Japan. The work has been staged in huge theatres such as the Globe in Tokyo in 1989, the playhouse in the New National Theatre in 2003, Theatre 1010. During overseas tours, Tenjō Sajiki presented the play in various places, adapting the direction to each venue, depending on the circumstances. It has been performed in such venues as an old bakery or a museum hall. The play’s title is derived from a satirical and humorous essay Directions to Servants by Jonathan Swift. Most of the characters in the play are servants, such as slaves, housemaids, farm workers, cooks or gatekeepers named after characters from Miyazawa Kenji’s fables. The story is set in a farm located in an isolated village in Tōhoku region where there is no master, thus the servants decide to play the role of the master in turns. This topsy-turvy charade attempts to question the relationship between authority and control, as well as the position of an actor and the audience. Nuhikun exposes the audience to a sadomasochistic universe combining elements of surrealism, dream work and Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt. Accompanied by fantastic machines, rock music and operatic echoes, the production has amazed audiences with the avant-garde director’s world of wonder and visual bravado. That master-slave farce is defined not merely by the theatrical dialogue, but also by actors’ moves to the rock-opera vibes. One observes various kinds of machinery props with the empty chair in the middle, symbolizing the absence of the real master until the very end. As in many of the Terayama’s plays, the absence of the main pillar stimulates the absence of the periphery. In 2019 Nuhikun by Laboratory of Theatre PlayBan'yūInryoku was invited to Poland as a part of InlanDimensions International Arts Festival, primarily established to commemorate the centenary of Polish-Japanese diplomatic relations. Staged at The Gdansk Shakespeare Theatre and The Grotowski Theatre, J.A. Seazer’s adaptation gained huge acclaim from both critics and the audience, being compared to the notable Polish XIX century piece of drama Non-divine Comedy by Zygmunt Krasinski with a topsy-turvy, erotic and decadent relish. Praising the lightning, actors’ animalistic physique, live music, as well as visionary, overwhelming stage equipment, members of the audience concluded: We might have grown senile, but the magic of the theater is not gone. It was a worthy comeback of Terayama to Poland for the first time since 1973. Right after the tour in Poland, Nuhikun was staged in December 2019 at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, being unanimously interpreted as a revolutionary manifesto in the turbulent political times of Hong Kong national security law. One could venture to say that Nuhikun – like Shakespeare’s plays –acts like a sponge which absorbs the issues of our time.

Nuhikun - Directions to Servants is staged in Poland thanks to the financial support of:


Gdansk, The Gdansk Shakespeare Theatre


Wroclaw, The Grotowski Institute, Bakery | Centre for Performing Arts