Bard Brains in Japan; resigning yourself to death on a bicultural basis

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at
Fri Aug 22 14:48:21 MDT 2003

BARD BRAINS: Duo gives `Hamlet' a bicultural twist
By HIROKO NISHIMURA, Asahi Shimbun News Service

Jonathan Kent is no stranger to tackling ``Hamlet,'' one of the most
distinguished and examined dramas of the Shakespearean canon. In 1995, the
former co-artistic director of Britain's Almeida Theater received rave
reviews both in London and on Broadway for his production of the tragedy,
which won star Ralph Fiennes a Tony Award. But staging the drama in a
language other than English is something quite new for the 56-year-old
British director, whose impressive list of stage credentials includes ``King
Lear,'' ``Platonov'' and the ongoing Broadway musical ``Man of La Mancha.''

The Japanese production of ``Hamlet,'' which opens at Tokyo's Setagaya
Public Theater on June 17 before moving on to Niigata's Ryutopia Hall and
then a 10-day run at the Sadler's Wells Theater in London in late August,
will bring together Japanese actors and a British design, lighting and music
team. ``This is a bit of a strange sort of experience. It's unlike anything
I've ever done,'' the director said of the cross-cultural project in a
recent interview in Tokyo. (...)

In the upcoming production, popular kyogen actor Mansai Nomura takes the
title role of the Danish prince, a tormented soul who avenges his father's
murder. ``He has a sort of natural aristocracy and a fineness of
intellect,'' the director said of his star.
Asked why he chose ``Hamlet,'' Kent said, ``I have some knowledge and some
prior experience with the play. Because if I dig into a play from scratch,
along with actors in a foreign language, I think it might be difficult.''
Another reason, he explained, was the content of the play, which in the
final act deals with Hamlet's acceptance of death with the phrase ``Let it
be.'' ``It's accommodating the fact of death and the fact of our
powerlessness in the face of death. It gives an amazing tranquility to
Hamlet at the end of his life. And I think those are the greatest words by
Shakespeare,'' Kent said. (...)

``I'm absolutely thrilled (with the production),'' said Kent. ``It'll be
fascinating to see what comes out of a meeting of the two cultures.''

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