In March 2021, my partner Mika Eglinton and I translated the play Mary Poppins with her Upside–down Umbrella for a production at the Shizuoka Performing Arts Park in April 2021. The play was written by renowned playwright and director Kara Juro and it was directed by artistic director of the Shizuoka Performing Arts Centre (SPAC), Miyagi Satoshi.
Kara wrote the play in 1976 and it bears some of the hallmarks of the shogekijyo undo (small theatre movement) that it was part of: a strong sense of the absurd, colloquial language, puns and wordplay, subversion of social norms and so on.
The piece revolves around a girl called Kana Ishikawa who descends on an umbrella shop run by a man called Ochoko. Ochoko falls in love with Kana, who has come to get her umbrella fixed. More than merely mend it, Ochoko fantasizes about making it into a Mary Poppins style umbrella.
Meanwhile Ochoko’s friend and benefactor Higaki, discovers that Kana was embroiled in a scandal, having given birth to the child of a famous pop singer. As time passes the trio begin to lose grip on their mundane realities and a fantasy world unfolds.
Miyagi’s production was meant to be part of the 2020 Shizuoka World Theatre Festival, but was postponed due to Covid-19. Instead, SPAC presented three, two-hour live streamings of the play in an empty theatre venue under the title “Theatre absence of Mary Poppins with her Upside-down Umbrella”.