Setagaya Public Theater
June 22-July 14
Japan’s love affair with Shakespeare continues at Tokyo’s Setagaya Public Theater this week (setagaya-pt.jp/en/). Mansai Nomura, artistic director and kyogen luminary, has his work cut out as he attempts a difficult marriage between the brevity and comedic elements of the Japanese theater form from the Muromachi Period (1392-1573) and the length and tragedy of “Richard III” in a contemporary interpretation by renowned Shakespeare scholar Shoichiro Kawai titled “Kuninusubito.”
No stranger to Shakespeare, Nomura played Hamlet in the acclaimed 2003 production by leading English director Jonathan Kent, and has staged kyogen versions of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and “The Comedy of Errors.” “Richard III,” one of the Bard’s most complex works, is not the most natural choice for a kyogen makeover, but with Nomura in the title role and Kayoko Shiraishi playing four female parts, this is sure to be an engaging must-see production. Nomura will undoubtedly play to the subtle comedy found in Shakespeare’s history play and, with a radical overhaul of the text and kyogen’s typically exaggerated movement, gestures and dialogue, “Kuninusubito” should be crystal clear even for those not particularly proficient in Japanese.
The villainy of “Richard III” fused with an East-meets-West artistic manifesto should cement Nomura’s reputation as a risk-taker and visionary, making “Kuninusubito” perfect for anyone looking for a night at the theater with a cross-cultural twist.