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Using the unique device of actors performing as bunraku-style puppets, complete with visible, black-clad puppeteers, France’s Theatre du Soleil is in Tokyo to present its 1999 creation, “Tambours sur la Digue (Drummers on the Dike).” Directed by Ariane Mnouchkine, the play’s unusual nature is indicated by its subtitle, “A Story of the Ancient East for Puppets Played by Actors.”

Under Mnouchkine’s leadership, a group of students at the University of Paris formed a dramatic circle called Theatre du Soleil in 1964. By 1970, they had established a home base in the Cartoucherie, an old munitions factory in the forest of Vincennes outside Paris. Rejecting the constraints on acting imposed by conventional theaters, the theater in the Cartoucherie experimented with a unique dramatic space, a replica of which has been constructed in the Playhouse of the New National Theater for this, the troupe’s first overseas presentation of “Tambours sur la Digue.”

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