David Leveaux, the English director of “The Blue Room,” has been working regularly in Japan since 1993. In these highlights from a lengthy discussion last week, TPT’s artistic director speaks about his work here, Japanese audiences . . . and the message of “The Blue Room.”
Have you found any unexpected things in Japanese theater while you have been working here?
Many things. One thing that happened, unplanned, was that a great deal of our work has been about women. It almost naturally emerged, that politics or sexuality became powerful forms of expression in a way I had not expected, because I didn’t know how powerful those issues were in Japanese society.
How do you feel about the critical ability of audiences here?
I don’t know this, but I feel there is something possibly within the Japanese educational system that does not necessarily give people the tools for criticism or interrogation. However, the main thing one hopes is that they recognize something; that they feel the invisible has become visible: that something they thought they alone felt and didn’t know how to describe that sensation, that they’re not alone — that everybody has this.
In directing “The Blue Room” here, do you have anything particularly in mind for the audience?
The theater is not a tabloid newspaper, but with a play like this, which is essentially about sex, about love, about . . . in David Hare’s version it seems the fundamental theme of the play is that relationships — sex and love relationships — can sometimes go wrong, or be something clumsy or disastrous or just end badly. But if you don’t become involved, then you’re only half alive. So, really, it is very celebratory about love and sex.
Schnitzler was perhaps a little more cynical, because his view in “La Ronde” was based on his idea — a new idea then — that we don’t really love the person, we love an idealized version of them we project onto them. Then inevitably we become disappointed. And then it ends. So David Hare’s is a more positive and perhaps romantic statement: you must get on ronde(the round) — don’t not get on la ronde.
Has it been especially difficult to stage this play here?
When someone asked me if it would be difficult for Japanese audiences — kissing on stage, etc. — I said: ‘I don’t think so, and it can’t be that the only ways of expressing sex are porno, or trying to ignore it. Because there’s a big area in the middle . . . if we’re not allowed to meet, as adults, the real power of this, then I think we are impoverished.’
I was asked what I wanted the audience to take from the play, and I said ‘Each other.’ It’s possible to make relationships — and it’s good. The whole evening should be celebratory in a certain way — it should feel like a sexy evening.