Trust Your Art: Japan’s Theatre Gumbo and the Creative Freedom to Explore

Theatre Gumbo has traveled the world with their unique brand of surreal comedy. But the Fringe circuit is where they’ve found their audience and honed their art.  

Photo by Sue Brenner

“There’s a lot more freedom to say what [we] want in our art in Fringe,” explains director Kayo Tamura— alongside actors Nono Miyasaka and Ryo Nishihara, she’s speaking from the Orlando Fringe, as translated by Ryuto Adamson. “[We] have that freedom to just be creative and try and get messages out that would not necessarily fly in Japan comfortably.”  

After forming in 1994, the Osaka-based group has toured Fringes across the globe—from Edinburgh to Australia, and all over North America—to adoring audiences. Once, when touring a smaller Fringe festival in Australia, a storm knocked the power out.

The theatre itself was ready to cancel, but the audience arrived with lanterns and hand-cranked light sources, and the show managed to go on.  

“It was all just locals who came together to help [us] perform the show,” they recall. “And that’s really sort of what stuck with [us]. We love to travel around and do Fringes because of the community.” 

Photo by Sue Brenner

Theatre Gumbo is returning to Edmonton Fringe with Are You Loving It?, a wild, dark comedy that looks at modern Japan and fast food culture.

They first performed the show here in 2019, and are excited to return to town with a new, enhanced version of the script. For their fellow artists, Theatre Gumbo’s Fringe tip is to have total conviction in your own work.  

“The audience reaction is going to be so varied,” the Gumbo team notes. “Some of them are gonna love it. And some of them will absolutely hate it. So you can’t falter in those moods and feedback. You just have to stay strong and say: ‘This is what I am doing, this is what I know. I have complete trust in my art.’ And so as long as that message is getting across, you’ll do fine.”  

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