Tetsuwari Crack Iron Albatrossket is an experimental theatre troupe and may be Japan’s premier dramatic ironists and meta-comedians. Tetsuwari’s leader and playwright Inui Akito descends from a long line of famous actors/writers, but he’s also a student of Monty Python, The Harder They Come, and modernist drama.
Usually based in a community center in old-timey Nezu, their short segments deconstruct traditional shitamachi culture and theatre itself through self-reference and absurdist techniques. Characters talk in parallel directions, rarely understanding each other, whether they be discussing the pirate chic of dead canaries, the mystery of hard-boiled eggs, high-quality glass polishing for uptown bars, or prophecies involving Damo Suzuki and an elephant-shaped Trojan Horse. There’s also a surplus of dance routines and male choral group parodies with synchronized kleenex waving.
Tetsuwari avoids the trap of dramatic pretension through their mix of “real” actors and stumbling amateurs: It’s hard by the end to tell if the guy in the state-provided glasses is pretending to forget his lines or just forgetting his lines. At the very least, they blow the entire mainstream o-warai world out of the water. And I would postpone final judgment on the possibilities of Japanese comedy until experiencing the live Tetsuwari show.