'Cuckoo's Nest' still flies in the face of oppression

by Nobuko Tanaka

Among the astonishing outburst of new American cinema in the 1970s, Milos Forman’s multi-Oscar-winning “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” offered most Japanese moviegoers their first encounter with the peculiarly piercing eyes of Jack Nicholson, who played its central character, Randle P. McMurphy. Now, almost 40 years on, theatergoers here ...

Europe rewards edgy dramatists

Jul 16, 2014

Europe rewards edgy dramatists

by Nobuko Tanaka

Tim Etchells, artistic director of Forced Entertainment, the English company whose “The Coming Storm” was a highlight of last year’s Festival/Tokyo, told me then that they now play abroad more than at home — mainly because festival organizers pay their costs. In contrast, producers ...

Suitcase 'Macbeth' packs a punch

Jul 16, 2014

Suitcase 'Macbeth' packs a punch

by Andrew Eglinton and Mika Eglinton

Cultures collide on the small square stage of Mansai Nomura’s pared-down “Macbeth,” in which the actor/director draws on the restrained aesthetics of noh and the agility and wit of kyōgen traditional comic theater as he transplants his version of Shakespeare’s blood-soaked Scottish play to ...

Jul 16, 2014

Parisians hail beauty of Nomura's oeil de boeuf

by Bronwyn Mahoney

Mansai Nomura’s recent staging of “Macbeth” at the Maison de la culture du Japon in Paris drew a varied and enthusiastic audience. The beautiful, restrained production reflected the intensity of the events leading up to and from Macbeth’s murder of King Duncan. And as ...

High-energy Ono conducts a rare 'Hoffmann' critique

Jul 2, 2014

High-energy Ono conducts a rare 'Hoffmann' critique

by Ayako Takahashi

He is known best for the rapturously hysterical “Infernal Gallop” (aka “The Can-can”) from his 1858 operetta “Orpheus in the Underworld,” but the German-born, naturalized-French composer Jacques Offenbach (1819-80) is credited with just one full-length, serious opera — “The Tales of Hoffmann” — which ...

Insects inspire butoh master Maro

Jun 25, 2014

Insects inspire butoh master Maro

by Rieko Suzuki

“I think if you looked at Earth from space, you’d see that the ones who really hold the reins here are not humans, but insects,” Akaji Maro, a master of the expressionist Japanese dance genre butoh, declared in a recent interview for The Japan ...

Outsider's 'Jacob' is a sensory feast

Jun 25, 2014

Outsider's 'Jacob' is a sensory feast

by Lindsay Nelson

It’s hard to choose the most powerful visual moment in the New National Theater’s production of “19-Year-Old Jacob.” My vote would be for the opening scene when, after the audience has been in total darkness for more than a minute, a single sharp triangle ...

'Scary stories' series reaches limit

Jun 25, 2014

'Scary stories' series reaches limit

by Natsume Date

In “Hyakumonogatari,” a 1911 novella by the great author and translator Ogai Mori, the protagonist explains that its title refers to a traditional way of telling ghost stories, saying: “In hyakumonogatari (meaning ’100 tales’), people gather together and arrange 100 candles. Each person tells ...

Cocoon Kabuki enters a new era

Jun 18, 2014

Cocoon Kabuki enters a new era

by Natsume Date

Theatre Cocoon in the Bunkamura performance-arts hub of Tokyo’s vibrant Shibuya district has always been a popular venue specializing in new works by fresh contemporary writers. Emblematic of this is Cocoon Kabuki, its unique series begun in 1994 under the then Artistic Director Kazuyoshi ...

Female dramatists dispel gender concern

Jun 18, 2014

Female dramatists dispel gender concern

by Nobuko Tanaka

Last month in Berlin, in a conversation with Annemie Vanackere, artistic director at the city’s cutting-edge Hebbel am Ufer company, she was saying how she loved contemporary Japanese theater, and how HAU had worked with several Japanese dramatists. Then she suddenly asked me: “Why ...