If there was one thing I really debated and laboured over before presenting Rakugo for 3 weeks in London
and 3 weeks in New York - which stories to tell.
There are two main choices here.
One is to consider Rakugo a set show, like any other musical, play, or comedy show in the West End or off-Broadway. That is, do the same show every night. There are several reasons to do this. If I set 90 minutes - two sets of 45 minutes each, and perform this every night, I could c
hoose the best of my material developed over the last ten years, when reviewers came I could be sure I had my Rakugo A-game going, and then when I came back a year later I could be doing a completely new show.
The other choice was to do different stories according to the day. This is more in the Japanese style of Rakugo where you can go see the same storyteller multiple times and they will be doing different stories each time.
I finally decided on the latter for a number of reasons. One, this way people could come back to hear different stories. Two, as mentioned above, this way is more in the spirit of Rakugo in Japan. Three, I don't think it's necessarily wise to be setting up any show with the aim of pleasing reviewers - I could do it that way and still get a bad review from the New York Times - who knows! The audience is most important. As in the Japanese saying, お客様は神様, the audience is God.
But one more reason presented itself. There is no other performer or show in the West End or off-Broadway where the show is different according to the day - this was another opportunity to be unique, while staying very close to tradition.
I am happy I made this decision. The number of repeaters exceeded my expectations, with quite a few people even coming three times. The record was set by one lady in New York, a true Rakugo fan in a Rakugo-starved city, who came to see me ei
ght times. (I confess that I didn't have eight different shows, so she was seeing some stories for the second time!)
In the end we were fortunate to get four professional reviews in New York, all of the reviewers saw different shows and all were positive - a good sign for the future. But more importantly, they all mentioned the fact that there were different stories on different days.
I'm glad I did it that way - it's a lot more fun for me as well!