A year filled with standing ovations

by

Contributing Writer

While 2017 featured many great stage productions and performances, these were among the standouts:

‘Wasureru Nihonjin’ (‘The Japanese Who Forget’)
Chiten

Watching this latest work by the wonderfully gifted young playwright Shuntaro Matsubara felt like being swept along in a flood of insightful observations about Japanese people today, specifically their tendency to do and think the same, as directed from on high. Staged by Chiten’s founder, the experimental director Motoi Miura, this brought Matsubara’s words to the stage in a superbly rhythmical context.

‘Some Lessons to Feel: Something Far is Near, Something Near is Far’
Port B

This site-specific performance by the artist Akira Takayama was an amazing experience that enabled its “audience” to imagine and almost feel what it must be like to be a refugee living in Germany, but from the safe venue of a boat cruising down a Yokohama river.

‘Richard III’
Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre

Though Richard III is (rightly or wrongly) regarded as one of history’s great villains, Kuranosuke Sasaki gave the English king a remarkably human touch through his unusually sensitive portrayal. Directed by Silviu Purcarete, this Romanian-Japanese collaboration’s magnificent visual sense, combined with the Japanese cast’s superb acting, created a work to die for in this doomed king’s bloody realm.

‘Antigone’
Shizuoka Performing Arts Center

Staged as the opening program of the 71st Avignon Festival in France, this Buddhist approach to “Antigone” by director Satoshi Miyagi will surely be inscribed on its audiences’ hearts, along with the solemn beauty of the stage set, which featured a pool and giant shadow pictures cast on the massive stone walls of the Palace of Popes.

‘Tschick’
Setagaya Public Theatre

Having chosen Wolfgang Herrndorf’s play for her debut staging at Setagaya Public Theatre, rising young director Yuna Koyama — who was born and brought up in Hamburg — drew acclaim from audiences and critics alike for the sparkling performances she drew out of the production’s five-strong cast, especially main actors Akinobu Shinoyama and Tokio Emoto.

‘Peer Gynt’
Setagaya Public Theatre

This memorable Japan-Korea collaboration was a powerful reminder of theater’s ability to reach deep into the soul through a sometimes sublime blend of storyline, costumes, physical movement and great live music.