The next interview in our stagey chat series is with Matsume Kai, who's just opened in one-person show, Hole, currently running at the Old Red Lion Theatre until 22nd June.

Get yourself comfy and join us for the next segment of Stagey Chat!

Hi Matsume, how are you? Thanks so much for chatting to Stage to Page today! Would you mind introducing yourself and telling our readers how you first got into acting?

Hi! It's lovely to be here! Well, my journey into acting wasn't the most conventional. I'm 45 and have two kids, one of whom is going through puberty. Although I wanted to go to drama school, I couldn't leave my husband to handle all the parenting responsibilities while I pursued my passion. 

Instead, I honed my skills through part-time drama schools and courses over the past 6 years, from Identity School of Acting to Central School of Speech and Drama (where I met my mentor, who I work with to this day). I invested my drama school savings into private coaching with my mentor, and into group workshops which I attend on a weekly basis.

So, for all you 'older' ladies out there, it's never too late. It may take longer than the typical 3-year drama journey, but we all get there in the end.

From 11 June, you'll be playing the lead in Hannah Morrish's play, Hole. Can you tell us more about the story and what initially drew you to this role?

I first saw Hannah Morrish herself performing Hole as an online-stream (the piece was originally staged for four performances at the Jermyn Street Theatre in 2021) and I was blown away. I instantly connected with the horror and pain that comes with an eating disorder, a disorder you think you have control over, but a control that can quickly slip. It creeps into every part of your life. My home when I was growing up was sometimes a scary place and eating was my self-soothing crutch, so I know how quickly it can turn into Binge Eating Disorder. Hannah has written something really honest, but made it theatrical - the character find herself face to face with a mysterious child who leads her down into a literal hole inhabited by the monsters that exist within her and all of us.

It’s the perfect framing for a story about mental health that is also exciting and entertaining - like Pan’s Labyrinth crossed with People, Place and Things.

How has it been tackling a one-person show?

Gathering the creative stamina required to perform alone on stage for 75 minutes has been a big but exciting challenge! The multi-roling involved in this particular one-woman show, and that balance of multi-characters scenes vs direct audience audience interaction, is what really piqued my interest as an actor.

Representation in the arts is so incredibly important. Is this something you're more aware of, now being part of a production that focuses heavily on topics such as mental health and eating disorders?

Yes, absolutely. Mental health isn't something my Japanese parents or most Japanese parents are aware of or talk about often. I've tried over the years but found it hard to find the right words or resources. It's just not spoken about. I've never hugged or held my dad; it's not something the Japanese typically do (my mum, although she found it awkward at first, loves it now!) In my culture, feelings are always suppressed, especially for men, so it's been really difficult, particularly with my father. 

That's why I think it's crucial for stories like Hole to be told. Art is a fantastic, unmistakable way of teaching or helping people, like my father, who come from an Asian background and need to better understand what mental health is. I hope that even just one person, one kid, will walk out of the theatre thinking, "Oh, it's not just me."

A question I ask everyone we chat to - my blog is called Stage to Page. But if you could turn any book, from page to stage, what would it be and why?

My dream already came true when My Neighbour Totoro was put on stage. It was everything and more. I'm a huge fan of anime being produced on stage! In Japan, it's nothing new to see anime adapted into films or productions, and we need more of that here.

If I had to choose out of the hundreds of things I'd love to see on stage: for kids, I'd pick Arrietty, which is based on the book The Borrowers. It's a children's fantasy novel about a family of tiny people who live secretly in the walls and floors of an English house and 'borrow' from the big people to survive. Arrietty is the tiny teenage daughter who ends up meeting one of the human boys, and their friendship grows. It's such a beautiful story, and I think my kids would love it. A stage adaption of that with the Japanese inflection of the Studio Ghibli film version would be wonderful.

For myself, I have to go with horror! I would love to see Junji Ito's The Enigma of Amigara Fault on stage. It's a story about a psychological compulsion people feel (also referenced by Hannah in Hole) – l'appel du vide, or the call of the void. The horror in this story comes from they psychology, with characters essentially killing themselves because something deep inside drives them to do so, despite knowing it will lead to certain death. It would be fascinating to see how they would adapt this unsettling tale for the stage.

And finally, why should anyone reading this book tickets to see Hole?

Hole is a powerful, thought-provoking and emotionally resonant piece of theatre that sheds light on the often hidden struggles of those dealing with eating disorders and mental health issues. It's a story that needs to be told, one that will strike a chord with anyone who has ever felt alone, misunderstood, or trapped by their own inner demons.

Through a captivating blend of storytelling, multi-roling, fantasy and horror, Hole takes the audience on a transformative journey into the depths of the human psyche. It's a raw, honest, funny and ultimately hopeful exploration of the resilience of the human spirit and the power of confronting our fears head-on.

As an actor, I've poured my heart and soul into bringing this complex, multi-faceted character to life. The creative team behind Hole has worked tirelessly to craft a visually stunning and immersive theatrical experience that will leave a lasting impact on everyone who sees it.

So, if you're looking for a thoughtful, emotionally charged and truly unforgettable night at the theatre, book your tickets to see Hole. It's a story, I hope, that will stay with you long after the curtain falls, and a testament to the transformative power of art in shining a light on the issues that matter most.

You can book tickets to see Matsume Kai in Hole at the Old Red Lion Theatre, here

**photo credit: Charles Flint**

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