Re-creating the fun, musical side of Shakespeare
Kumi Matsumaru / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
The Studio Life theatrical company cemented its popularity with aesthetically pleasing adaptations of novels like Bram Stoker's Dracula or Hiroko Minagawa's Shin-no Izumi. But the company is now taking up something different--a love comedy with songs. And perhaps more importantly, the all-male company is putting on a Shakespearian work for the first time.
Jun Kurata, the company's director, said she believed now is a good time for Studio Life to perform A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare's timeless tale of romance. Having marked its 20th anniversary last year, the company is now home to several veteran actors.
"A Midsummer Night's Dream is about the celebration of life in a sense, as it shows not only chaotic love relations, but also people's drive to overcome difficulties. It is a fun, sweet and warm-hearted piece," Kurata said in a recent interview with The Daily Yomiuri.
She said music and songs are indispensable in conveying the play's air of festivity, as there are many musical aspects to the lines themselves. "The words are full of beautiful rhymes and rhythm. Music and songs are necessary to express them."
While praising the beauty and literary quality of the translation by Kazuko Matsuoka, Kurata said she tried to link the script's elegant lines with more everyday expressions through the songs' lyrics. "What we need to do is achieve a balanced mixture of the two elements," Kurata said.
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a tale of romance revolving around several sets of lovers. Hermia plans to elope with Lysander to escape the wrath of her father, who is adamant that she marry Demetrius. It happens four days before the marriage of Duke Theseus and his betrothed Hippolyta, who cannot be called a deliriously happy couple.
But Demetrius falls in love with Helena--who loves Demetrius--because of a spell wrongly cast by the fairy Puck. The intended target of Puck, who works for fairy king Oberon, is fairy queen Titania who is in discord with the king. The same spell makes Titania fall in love with a weaver. As the confusion deepens, the lovers' relations dissolve into chaos.
At a rehearsal open to the press last week, Yusuke Hayashi (Titania) and Koji Ishitobi (Oberon) outshone others with their highly expressive gestures and kaleidoscopic delivery. Kazutoshi Funami excelled at showing the listless feelings of Hippolyta despite only getting a few lines.
Nodding or smiling at the performance of the actors during the rehearsal, Kurata seemed basically satisfied, although she said a few things needed to be brushed up in the week remaining before the opening.
"Although there are no actresses in the company, the actors can play anyone as they know how to maximize excitement for the audience, and how to share their characters with them," Kurata said.
"As long as we succeed in doing that, we can also wipe out any feeling of strangeness that may arise at times when Japanese do a foreign-made production," she said.
The cofounder of Studio Life said she always liked Shakespeare, and can never forget one particular performance.
"I saw A Midsummer Night's Dream at [Open Air Theatre in] Regent's Park in London about 20 years ago while I was staying there for two months to immerse myself in theater production. It was a year before we set up Studio Life," she said.
"The play started around 8 p.m. when it still was bright. As the play proceeded, it got darker, and I felt as if fairies were really wandering around the dark woods. I was very impressed with the final wedding scene staged under lights in the dark park," Kurata said.
Kurata called A Midsummer Night's Dream a "large-boned masterpiece."
"The foundation of the work always is solid whatever approach we take. In other words, it is a kind of play that reveals the skill of actors."
"A Midsummer Night's Dream" will be staged Sept. 9-10, 14, 16-18, 21, 23-24, 28, 30 and Oct. 1 at 1 p.m., Sept. 9-10,16-18, 23-24 and 30 at 6 p.m. and Sept. 11-15, 19-22 and 25-29 at 7 p.m. at Shinjuku Theater Sun-mall, Shinjuku, Tokyo, (03) 3319-5645.