‘We all felt this could be a masterpiece’

by Nobuko Tanaka

Midway through the triumphant two-week run of his summer-festival kabuki classic “Togitatsu no Utare,” cutting-edge director Hideki Noda took time to reflect on his remarkable crossover from contemporary theater to the Kabuki-za in Ginza (no less).

Director Hideki Noda

What is the difference between directing modern drama with your Noda Map company and directing kabuki?

I paid a lot of attention to adapting the traditional pace of kabuki to today’s rhythms. But I didn’t just try to speed up the movement, I wanted to fit the rhythm of modern Japanese language naturally to the plot.

What was the most difficult aspect of this production?

Kabuki-za’s system was old-fashioned, and I didn’t have enough time to prepare — especially to conduct on-stage rehearsals.

What has been the most enjoyable part of this project?

When we were in preparation, in the process of creating the production, everyone — not only the kabuki actors but also the other staff members — shared a feeling that we were involved in something incredibly interesting. We all felt this could be a masterpiece, and that something very special would happen on stage.

What is your impression of working at the Kabuki-za?

It reminded me a lot of the time when I staged “Nokemono Kitarite (Descent of Brutes)” at the Royal Lyceum Theatre during the Edinburgh Festival in 1987. In the same way I enjoyed the Kabuki-za’s space, where it is easy to share the atmosphere with the audience who, like those in Edinburgh, are really knowledgeable, shout comments and give a feeling of “village theater.”

How do you feel about how the audience has reacted after the curtain has come down?

To be honest, I never expected such huge compliments; I thought some people would be confused by my production, but they weren’t. I have been so pleased, especially by the standing ovations, which are exceptional in kabuki.

I’d love to.