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Celtic epic set in Ryukyu

Ku Na'uka troupe perform on an open-air stage

by Nobuko Tanaka

In an outdoor treat to rival summer’s traditional fireworks displays, Satoshi Miyagi’s renowned Ku Na’uka contemporary theater company is this week staging its version of the Celtic chivalry epic,”Tristan and Isolde” in the grounds of the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno from July 24-30.

Written and directed by Miyagi, who founded Ku Na’uka in 1990, this stirring tale of true love, valor and honor premiered in 2001 at the cozy Aoyama Round Theatre before playing to acclaim in Paris in January 2004 as part of a Ku Na’uka trilogy (with the plays “Tenshu Monogatari” and “Othello.”)

Writing in the original program notes, Miyagi explained that although Richard Wagner’s opera based on this ancient story was one of his all-time favorites, he had never found a way to clearly address its themes. However, he said he was eventually inspired to write and stage the work when he had the idea of projecting Tristan’s pure, knightly, but ultimately spurned character through that of the great Showa Era novelist Yukio Mishima.

Set in Ryukyu (present-day Okinawa), Honshu and Hokkaido instead of the original’s Ireland, Cornwall and Brittany, this production casts the heroine, Isolde (Mikari), wearing a vivid Ryukyu costume, while her secret lover, Tristan (Koichi Otaka), is portrayed as one of the original Ainu inhabitants of Hokkaido and his liege, King Marke of Cornwall, is reminiscent of the Showa Emperor. With original music by Keiko Harada, the drama also features cast members playing live instruments on stage.

“Tristan and Isolde” runs from July 24-30 at the open-air stage at the Tokyo National Museum, an 8-minute walk from JR Ueno Station.

Tickets are 6,000 yen (2,500 yen for under-25s). For more details, call the Ku Na’uka Theatre Company at (03) 3779-7653 or visit www.kunauka.or.jp (English and Japanese).

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Longtime Japan resident and Japan Times columnist C.W. Nicol’s fantasy novel “Kaze o Mita Shonen (The Boy Who Saw the Wind)” is being staged in Tokyo by the Atom Theater Company. This powerful adventure story, with original music and puppet effects, is a standard in the company’s repertoire.

“Kaze o Mita Shonen” is performed on July 22 at the Tokyo Jido Kaikan Hall, a 7-minute walk from JR Shibuya Station.

Tickets are 2,700-3,000 yen yen. For more details, call Atom Theater Company at (03) 5983-8228 or visit www.atomw.co.jp (Japanese only).