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L'événement culturel de l'été à Bruxelles!    

Out Of the Blue

Musique: Shun-Ichi Tokura
Livret: Paul Sand

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The idea for the musical began when I was doing the music for an old documentary film about the final days of the Second World War. The time was 1945, and the place was a POW camp on the outskirts of Nagasaki, just before the war's close. To be precise, this camp was called Fukuoka Prisoner of War Sub-Camp No.14, and it was located in a place called Saiwai-cho, which was 1.7km away from the Nagasaki A-bomb's ground zero. The film depicts people who look to be Westerners laboring at war plants as well as scenes from within the camp. What came across my mind every time I watched the video was the issue of what exactly became of those POWs from the Allied Forces? These captives were English, American, Australian and Dutch. and at times, nearly 500 of them were apparently kept at that camp.

On August 9 at 11:02 AM, an atomic bomb exploded over the skies of Nagasaki. No accurate records remain about how many of the 73,884 people who were killed as a result were POWs from the Allied Forces. Also, few records remain to explain how the surviving prisoners dealt with the end of the war and how they returned to their homelands.

One existing record is the testimony left by a survivor named Chisato Tajima, who was employed as an accountant at Prisoner of War Sub-Camp No.14.

"Prisoner of War Sub-Camp No.14 was like a battlefield in miniature. I was always face-to-face with an enemy. These people who came from many different countries were among the first in the world to experience an A-bomb. The bomb was definitely not a problem exclusive to the Japanese."

Irrespective of their race, all these human beings were victims of the Nagasaki A-bomb attack. The war ended a week later, with one side staying behind as the losers, and the other side going back to their countries as the winners.  Those who remained in Nagasaki subsequently lived out their lives as witnesses to the presumably returned home as heroes to such countries as England and Holland? How many other people found out that these men had in fact been victims of an A-bomb attack? And at a time when radiation sickness and related maladies did not even have names, how many of these men died in secret of leukemia or other cancers? Are these people recognized as A-bomb victims? What was it like for these people after the war?

Without my realizing it, these questions were swirling around in my head.

Prior to the bomb, Fukuoka Sub-Camp No.14 apparently was not as bad a place as one might have imagined. Naturally, since Japan is an island country, you couldn't really go very far if you escaped, and the prisoners apparently had an unexpected degree of freedom. And of course, prisoners went off to dockyards and other such places to work, and the Catholic adherents among the prisoners apparently were permitted to attend mass on occasion at Urakami Catholic Church. Documents describing these kinds of things are still around, and there is even a letter that was sent from a prisoner to a yang local girl thanking her for a present. Diaries and letters also shed light on the interactions between and the behavior of the jailers and the prisoners. Although it was fate, the A-bomb was exploded on both the local citizenry and the prisoners as each group went about its ordinary daily activity on the soil of Nagasaki.

As I was connecting these facts together, I began to think that I could use them to tell a serious story.

I completed the first draft of the script in the autumn of 1993 in London, which I was using as a base for my work at the time. The scriptwriter was the-up-and-coming Paul Sand. Dramatization was handled by the veteran director David Gilmore.

This tale is a grand love story. It is a story of love about a man and a woman who transcend their racial differences, a brother and sister whose social position and ways of thinking diverge, the friendship of embattled men who become each others' enemies as well as allies, and above all, about a father and daughter who have been long separated by a cruel twist of fate. On August 9, 1945, the fateful day arrives for everyone.

For the storyteller, I created the role of Dr. Akizuki. This character portrays a real person named Shuichiro Akizuki, who himself had been a victim of the Nagasaki A-bomb attack and who had subsequently traveled around the world as an authority on radiation sickness. Narrated chiefly by Dr. Akizuki, the story slips between modern times and 1945 and between the American Midwest and Nagasaki, depicting the postwar life of John Marshall, an American soldier who was a victim of the A-bomb explosion in Nagasaki as a POW. The tale goes on to recount the familial love involving Marshall's wife Hideko and their daughter Hana. It finally proceeds to Nagasaki on August 9, a day that changed the lives of all affected.

Set to a backdrop of the greatest tragedy to have ever befallen mankind -the dropping of an atomic bomb- this musical/opera conveys the friendship, familial love, and above all, the human love that unfolded between the people who survived and overcame the anguish of that tragedy.

Sixty years have transpired since the close of the Second World War, but this is a story that we must absolutely keep telling to the next generation.

The first performance took place at London's Shaftesbury Theatre in November 1994.

Copyright 2006 © SHUN TOKURA & ASSOCIATES All Rights Reserved.

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