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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: February ::
Kabuki, Suzuki. "Aussie" Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0287  Friday, 19 February 1999.

[1]     From:   Erika Lin <
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        Date:   Thursday, 18 Feb 1999 12:32:59 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Kabuki and Suzuki Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Andy White <
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        Date:   Thursday, 18 Feb 1999 19:49:53 -0500
        Subj:   Kabuki Lear?

[3]     From:   Stephen Hazell <
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        Date:   Friday, 19 Feb 1999 10:50:36 +0800
        Subj:   Aussie Shakespeare?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Erika Lin <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Feb 1999 12:32:59 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Kabuki and Suzuki Shakespeare

I saw a Kabuki Macbeth the summer of either 1987 or 1988 produced by
Shakespeare on Wheels (who used to tour the Baltimore/DC area during
summers and who were based out of the University of Maryland at
Baltimore County).  I remember being very impressed by the rhythmic
pounding of sticks on the ground as Birnham Wood came to Dunsinane.

Best,
Erika Lin

[Editor's Note: I saw this production also, and I considered it one of
the strongest productions this company performed before financial
difficulties put an end to the innovative concept of bringing
Shakespeare to the people throughout the State of Maryland.
Incidentally, the company, which performed on a stage mounted on a
semi-trailer bed, warmed up, using Suzuki techniques. -Hardy]

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andy White <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Feb 1999 19:49:53 -0500
Subject:        Kabuki Lear?

While a student in Illinois, I had the pleasure of meeting Shozo Sato, a
Kabuki master and now professor emeritus at the U of I, who occasionally
adapts Shakespeare for the Kabuki stage.  His training program in
Illinois has had great results, but I'm getting the impression that it's
difficult for him to realize his vision with what amounts to a pick-up
cry of players.

Was this the case with his Lear at the Arena Stage?  I think this may be
distinct from any production by Suzuki, and would be interested to hear
from anyone who has seen his work, including his most recent take on
Othello, entitled Iago's Plot.

Cheers,
Andy White
Arlington, VA

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen Hazell <
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Date:           Friday, 19 Feb 1999 10:50:36 +0800
Subject:        Aussie Shakespeare?

The 'Aussie Shakespeare' is actually a 'pan-Asian' affair whose main
begetter is a Singaporean, Ong Keng Sen. He is the artistic director of
what is probably the most innovative theatre company in Singapore,
TheatreWorks.

"Lear" first saw the light of day in Japan in 1998 because it was funded
by the Japan Foundation Asia Centre. In January and February of this
year it has toured Hong Kong, Singapore, Jakarta and Perth. The
production attempts to 'reinvent' a range of traditional Asian
performance styles 'from a contemporary perspective' (quotes from
programme notes) and the original text is re-interpreted from a female
perspective (e.g. Goneril is intended to suggest new Asian woman
wresting power from the traditional patriarchy and her mother - no such
figures in Shakespeare's play, of course - is an occasional ghostly
presence with semi-divine status, a saving and healing power).

Since the production was a long time brewing in intercultural workshops,
it would take a very long posting to describe all that goes on in it -
the main theatrical points to note are probably that actors, dancers and
musicians from six different Asian countries are involved; that actors
speak in their own language; that the Old Man is played as noh and the
Elder Daughter as Chinese Opera; and that the playwright is Japanese
(Rio Kishida).

Such an ambitious project required large-scale staging. My students and
colleagues found it exciting to see and hear, though they mostly found
Kishida's poetic script elusive. The production may nonetheless prove to
be a defining moment in the proposed creation of a pan-Asian theatre.

The appropriation of Shakespeare as source-material seems a perfectly
sound strategy (i.e. well-known stories and issues, specifically not
from any of the cultures contributing to the work) - it will be
interesting to see if a grittier script is generated for the next
project (rumoured to be 'Othello').

Stephen Hazell, Singapore
 

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