“Bedge pardon?” Was a phrase that literary giant Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) scribbled into his diary while studying in London. He was describing how it sounded when a servant woman said “I beg your pardon” to him. But far from mocking the woman he nicknamed “Miss Bedge Pardon,” Soseki’s descriptions of their conversations together show they were one of the few bright points during his lonely British experience, which he later deemed “the most unhappy time in my entire life.”
Now, though, in his new, hilariously imaginative dramatization of this artist’s suffering — titled “Bedge Pardon” — in-demand playwright and director Koki Mitani is set to bring to life just what the great author made of his only sojourn on foreign soil. To aid him in this cause, 49-year-old Mitani enlists among the cast his two favorite regular actors, Kazuyuki Asano (who plays the roles of 11 different English characters) and Eri Fukatsu (Miss Bedge Pardon) — along with kyogen‘s leading actor Mansai Nomura as the sharp-witted, satirical Soseki.
Mitani has already presented two new plays this year: the three-person mystery “Rokudenashi Takuboku” (“Rascal Takuboku”) and a psychodrama that takes place among a group of Nazi officers titled “Kokumin no Eiga” (“Nation’s Film”). Each ran for two months, playing to full houses each day. Like those productions, “Bedge Pardon” will also run for two months at Setagaya Public Theatre in Tokyo, where Mansai is the artistic director.
As with those other two plays, in “Bedge Pardon” Mitani aims to trump audience expectations of historical figures — whether it’s tragic poet Takuboku Ishikawa, or the cold-hearted Nazis. With “Bedge Pardon,” Mitani takes what was a very miserable time in Soseki’s life and conveys it in a much warmer fashion.
“Bedge Pardon” runs from June 6 to July 31 at Setagaya Public Theatre. The venue is a three-minute walk from Sangenjaya Station on the Den-en-Toshi or Setagaya lines. For more information, call the SIS Company at (03) 5423-5906, or visit www.siscompany.com.