"When the switch is pressed ～What is it that you're living for?～"
"When the switch is pressed ～What is it that you're living for?～"
If you could press a button that would end your life instantly, would you do it?
In a way, although it is a dark subject, I'm glad that I knew the word "jisatsu" (自殺 - japanese for "suicide") before I went to see this play. Because that's what it was about..... like I'd heard from other people, this play left me with a heavy feeling. Even now, hours after seeing it, I still feel as if all I can do is think about what was portrayed, and what it means, to me and to people as a whole. I want to say that a play like this, which was dark, scary, and depressing, had a positive message to say about life somewhere in it. But I honestly don't think that it did. It wasn't meaningless, by any means, but I think that the point was, perhaps, to make you consider your own life. That's all... take a good, deep look at your life, and don't let it end like this.
My sincere compliments go to the playwright. Out of all of the plays I have ever seen in my life, and all of this movies, this was one of the most shocking/moving/contemplative things that I've ever seen. I truly, even though my eyes feel as if they've been opened momentarily to a darker world, am grateful that I was able to go. If it was ever put to dvd, I would buy it, and though I would not watch it often, would definitely see it again in order to truly appreciate my own life.
The acting was amazing... summing up the characters, I hated Nagayan's character, Minami, for most of the play for his two-faced-ness, but sympathized with him at other times. I loved Hijii Mika's character, Masami, maybe because I felt sympathy for what she went through, as a woman. Sugawara Takuma's character, Ryota, especially left an impression on me. Mitsu and Aiba Hiroki's characters were charming (especially Aiba's), and Tagami Hiroshi's character had me despising him to his core (I can't remember the character names, gomen). Just six people, but the story and their performances were so enthralling that I was sitting on the edge of my seat at times. I also cried, and cried hard...
"When the switch is pressed..." It's not just about your own switch, but also..... what if you had to make a decision to press someone else's switch, when someone's life was at stake? Deep.
First a little bit about the location: This play was very unique in that it was set on a round stage, in a VERY small theater. Yes, a round stage.. the seats were set around the room, and in the center was a round raised platform where most of the acting took place (though some took place in the aisles or the platform leading out to it). There was nothing on the platform save for a few lone chairs at times, but it didn't need anything more. Seats were all the way around the room, and they were actually only 4 rows deep. Yes..... very, VERY small. As a result, it felt very moving and intimate, actually. I loved the setup. I took a picture before the play started.
In this reality, Japan began an experiment on human life 17 years ago.. In this experiment, selected children, when they reached their 10th birthday, whenever that might be, were given a long white cylinder with a serial number and a removable cap (or in Nagayan's case, his was silver, but it was the only different one). Underneath the cap was a red button, and if you pressed this button, your life would end. Curious, most of the children pressed the button immediately, and died. But these 4 people who received the switch 7 years ago (Masami, Ryouta, Mitsu, Aiba), for one reason or another, didn't press the button. They continued to live, and the experiment continued. At this point, they were living contained in a government facility, under the watchful and mosttimes cruel watch of the scientist, Dr. Tagami (I forgot the character's name so using the actor's, gomen). In order to push the subjects to the brink of despair and force them to end their own lives with their switches, he outright mentally abused them in whatever way would present itself.
The young people found what solace they could. Mostly by finding little things that they could enjoy and taking to them when the doctor was out. Right away, it's clear that the cute, dorky Ryouta has a crush on Masami, and to an extent, maybe out of pity, she loves him back. But she shows everyone else affection as well. She really seems to be the one, though being abused herself, who holds the hope of this group in her palms. One day, before the arrival of the doctor, Masami and Ryouta are talking about what the future holds, or rather, doesn't hold, and deeply in love with Masami, Ryouta playfully takes her switch from her. In return he gives her his switch, and though at first she cries for it back, he playfully tells her that if they have each other's switch, then they'll never be able to end their lives from despair. Together, this way, they'll protect each other's life. And so, she agrees and things go on. The doctor, infinitely cruel, shows up and begins to mentally torment the character, hoping that the things that he says or does will push them to the brink and over.
But suddenly a new person shows up. This is Minami (Nagayan), and he's here to begin work alongside the doctor. Immediately, though, he starts off on the right foot, hoping to gain the trust of the other characters. At first I liked Minami, how he steps in and stops the doctor from harrassing Masami. He's brought doughnuts, which the others descend on like a flock of birds, and stare into the box reverently. It's been so long since they've seen something as simple as cake or doughnuts. About to dig in, the doctor stops it all with a quick stomp to the center of the box, smashing them all. So cruel.
Things go on, Minami successfully stepping in. He charms Masami by being nice to her, and keeping the doctor from assaulting her further. And when he walks in on wheelchair-bound sweet little Aiba with his new song notes and grabs the paper, he surprises the others by exclaiming that he can't read music and listening to Ryota hum them instead. He thinks that it's a great song, which inspires not only the trust of the others, but makes Masami fall deeper for him. Ryouta's openly jealous, but there's nothing that he can do about it. Soon after, it seems that Ryota's written lyrics to the song, and in a hearfelt scene, he appears on the balcony and privately tries to sing them for Masami. She comes to hear from the opposite balcony, but instead, she's listening to Minami, who is on stage now, softly mimic them. Afterwards and when Ryouta's gone to bed, Minami tells her, "good night...", but she replies telling him that "good night" isn't one of the things that they say in here. Instead, they say "see you tomorrow". I felt so sad, hearing this, at the connotations..
Desperate for a reason to keep himself still alive, and believing that Minami is on his side, one day Mitsu approaches him and gives him a letter that he wishes more than anything, that Minami would deliver. See.... when he was taken away and given the switch, he had a girlfriend who was taken to another place and also given one. He wondered, if it was possible, if she was still alive, to give her the letter. Minami assured him through his doubts, that if she had him waiting for her all this time, then she was definitely still alive!! He inspired so much hope in Mitsu, flooding him with the desire to fight longer and stronger...
But this is where we see another side to Minami (Nagayan). He takes the letter... not to his Mitsu's girlfriend, who had already killed herself instantly when given the switch many years ago, but takes it to the Doctor. And together with the doctor, he talks about his plans... what he wants to do is to gain the trust of these people, and after that, he plans to betray them one by one so that he can accomplish what the other couldn't, and push these people over the edge so that they kill themselves. But little does he know that Aiba's overheard this conversation from the doorway. When Minami spies Aiba, he runs over to them, and Aiba's so scared that he can't get his chair to move away. But when Minami arrives running and rushes in over the chair, he merely says with a grin, "your brake's on." CREEPY.
Moving on.... Oh how I HATED Nagayan's character at this point. He was SO two-faced, but it gets worse. Minami returns to Mitsu with news about his girlfriend, and first he tells him that he delivered the letter to her and that she's been waiting all of this time. But after reading the letter..... he tells him that because of his letter, she pushed her own switch and committed suicide. So it's his fault that she's died, after all this time. Mitsu, so distraught thinking that he's killed this poor girl (who was already dead), pushes his own switch and dies.
........... The sound of the switch, a loud click that echoes through the acoustic-rich room was shocking. It was here that I started to cry. I can still hear the click of the switch even now.....
Next, Aiba returns to the others, who have come in to find Mitsu dead on the ground. Ryouta is distraught already by the death of his companion, shouting over and over, "Why did you do it??!! Why??" that when Aiba tells him the story of what he overheard, he flies into a rage. He attacks Minami while Masami stands by and yells at them to stop and Aiba cowers. Minami doesn't fight back.... Why? Was he trying to gain Masami's sympathy, or did he honestly feel bad? Even now, I'm not sure. As he's knocked down again and again, suddenly something silver flies out of his pocket, and Masami picks it up. While Minami cowers to the side of the stage, she examines it more closely, and gasps out. It's a switch.... Minami's switch. So, Minami tells the story, how 17 years ago, he was a part of the experiment too, and the only one who didn't die.
Shock. But not more than what happens next. Ryouta grabs the switch from Minami's hand and threatens to push it. Instead of fighting for it back, Minami falls to the ground and starts begging for his life. He's fought so hard already to live, he says, so please don't kill him. Minami, frantic to keep his life from ending, starts to go crazy, but the kind Masami comforts him and holds him close, making him meet her eyes and believe in her. She tries to defend him, and in anguish over her betrayal, Ryouta begins to back away and raise up the switch. Minami lunges for him while Masami and Aiba stand there in shock. Then when we hear the "click", everyone falls still. After a moment, Minami begins to move, astonished that he's still alive, but when Ryouta starts to fall, suddenly something tumbles from Masami's hand.
Ryouta's switch.. She'd killed Ryouta, the boy who'd she'd been companions with for 7 years, who was so deeply in love with her that he'd trusted her with his life... so that he couldn't kill Minami. SHOCK. I was crying, and so many other people were crying too....... "Why? Why??" Aiba asks, having been tumbled to the floor and now cradling Ryouta's dead body...... end scene.
Sometime soon, the doctor, eager to help Minami in his plan, or to fascilitate the last two onto committing suicide, one day assaults Masami and Aiba again. He says cruel things about his lack of a future to Aiba after ripping up the lyrics to his song, and wheels him around on his wheelchair crazily so that he's unable to stop himself. The doctor then grabs Masami again and begins to say cruel things to her and act as if he's going to assault her (sexually?). It gets so bad that Masami starts losing it and crawls around on the floor screaming with her eyes wide open. It's scary, she was so convincing as a person that's lost her mind. I was honestly scared of her, and for her, and perhaps more sad for her than any other the others, even when they died. Truly, truly frightening. But now, it's Minami who stepped in to save her. The doctor tries to stop him by giving him a guilt trip over all of the people who's deaths he's been involved in (I didn't understand it all), but Minami, holding her close as she's held him, decides that they're all going to run away from the center. As they try to make their escape (and I didn't know whether Minami was a good or bad guy at this point, and I still don't know... I'd like to think thathis feelings were genuine, they certainly are later), the doctor pulls out a gun. He manages to hit Aiba in the knee, but they get away, and with the gun.
So, cue lots of darkness and the sounds of traffic. The next we see them, the three have relocated to a secret place in the city. They're hardly living though, afraid of the slightest siren or movement from outside. And on top of that, they have no money.... using money that he found outside, Minami returns with an onigiri from the convenience store, and in awe, the three of them share it and as they try to talk around their full mouths, it's the only bright spot in the play, which had everyone laughing. They tell Aiba that he can even have the last bit, and he takes a momentary leave. But he doesn't leave the building, he stays in the hallway and listens to Minami and Masami talk about the future, and what it is they could possibly do. And then he rolls back in, and presses his button.........
I don't know why he killed himself, but it seems that.. he just didn't have any more hope. Especially for his situation. He just... after 7 years, gave up. ;_____; So much more crying.
While he is still there and Minami and Masami are in anguish over what happened, the doctor shows up. He's found them!! Though Minami threatens him with the gun, it's to no avail, because...... the doctor has his switch, which he'd lost in the fight. So, they're forced to go back to the center.
But in the center, the last two survivors, they won't give up hope. Finally, Minami has found his reason to live and it's Masami. Masami, deeply in love with him also, even tells him so. They plan their future (she wants to try on a wedding dress, and to go to school, and he wants to find a job and work to support them), and she pesters him to tell her that he loves her back. He says that hs "feels she same", but she's insistent, "please say it the right way..." Even though he's deeply embarrassed, as he lays his head in her lap to dream about their future, finally Minami tells her, "I love you, too...." And......suddenly she goes limp and falls back.
"Masami??? Masami!!???" Minami noticed her limpness, and prods her, telling her to stop joking. Then he shakes her and shouts her name, and starts shouting, "you're lying!! It's a joke, right?!" But no........ it's not a joke. He reaches into her skirt pocket where her hand is, and see that she's pushed her own button.
Minami is broken by what happened.... As he'd found his reason for living, and thought that maybe, there truly was hope, suddenly it had crashed down around him. He cries out over and over, hugging her body, and finally, in tears, exclaims, "we'll be together, then... together, always..." And he pulls out his own switch, and after he dies, he falls over next to her, his arm falling over her side casually. Together they lay, as the stage goes dark and down to a single spotlight on them, and then finally everything goes dark. All that you can hear now is EVERYONE crying and sniffling. And finally, after a long time in he darkness, the lights come on and it's the doctor. He answers his cell phone as he walks over to the bodies, and casually, even laughing, he talks with his mother about a karaoke party, as he's covering deceased Minami and Masami with a blanket. Yes, it seems, he's free from work tomorrow after all.....
The end. After that is cast calls, where everyone walks out and lays their switch on the discarded blanket and many, many thank yous and bows. The writer is also introduced and the music composer. They tried to make us laugh though it was hard-won, and gave some talks about the nature of the matter here, and did so many, so many bowes and an encore.
T__________T I wish, so so badly, that I could see this play again. And that I could show it to other people. It's so depressing, but so deeply moving that I truly admire it. It really, really made (makes) me think. I hope that, maybe, just a little bit, by writing the story, I can share a little bit of what it made me feel. Please, for just a moment, take the time to think about your own life... and I think, how important it is to live. Whatever you do, don't ever give up hope.
*I hope that most of the details are right, but I went completely off of memory, so there may be errors*
Would I press the switch? I want to think that I would say "no" too, I really, really do....
PS: Official website is here: http://www.digital-hollywood.com/switch/