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Publication Date : 25-04-2012
London, New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo have seen this gripping, cleverly presented drama
Hideki Noda - the Japanese playwright-director whose "Yak Tua Dang" ("Red Demon") more than a decade ago fostered collaborations that spawned the Bangkok Theatre Network and Bangkok Theatre Festival - has been re-staging "The Bee" this year.
The four-man play has been to New York's Under the Radar Festival, to London and to the Hong Kong Arts Festival (where I saw it) and is back in Tokyo tomorrow through May 20.
It would be great if the Japan Foundation could bring "The Bee" to Bangkok soon.
Nikorn Saetang's translated version of Noda's "Nogyo Shojyo" ("Sao Chaona", "Girl of the Soil"), with a cast drawn from different Theatre Network groups, won first prize at the Bangkok Theatre Festival three years ago and was later staged at Festival/Tokyo.
At the same time Pradit Prasartthong did a likay version of Noda's "Akaoni" - on which "Yak Tua Dang" was based - and also took it to Festival/Tokyo and to the Singapore Arts Festival.
Noda's universal stories and subject matter have seen many of his works performed in English, especially at London's Soho Theatre. He co-wrote "The Bee" with Briton Colin Teevan, adapting a short story by Yasutaka Tsutsui, and it premiered there in 2006.
Noda subsequently translated the play into Japanese for award-winning performances in his homeland.
It's about a businessman named Ido who comes home from work ready to celebrate his son's sixth birthday, only to find that his wife and son have been taken hostage by an escaped convict called Ogoro.
Frustrated by the police and news media response, Ido takes matters into his own hands - seizing Ogoro's wife and son in turn. The situation intensifies and eye-for-an-eye violence is inevitable.
In Hong Kong, Noda had all of his actors fill multiple roles - except the British actress who was amazingly convincing as Ido. The dialogue is quick and the shifting of roles accentuates the rapid pace.
A cheap and thoroughly useful prop, the paper backdrop is used as a screen for projected images and is torn in some scenes, suggesting the fragility to the human mind.
Back in Tokyo, Noda will play Ido, he told me, because "Japanese viewers will find it funnier for me to portray a businessman, having seen me in so many eccentric roles over the years!"
The same weekend at the Hong Kong Arts Festival also featured "The Geisha of Gion", a lecture-demonstration presented at Nan Lian Garden, the beautiful public park off the tourist track in Kowloon.
Viewers were treated to a history of the culturally endangered geisha tradition - or geiko, as it's called in Kyoto. Geikos and apprentice maikos danced and played music and invited two audience members onstage for a tea ceremony and games.
This was no show for the tourists. It was a sincere and illuminating effort to preserve a part of Japan's classical culture. I couldn't help thinking that Thais have much to learn in the way they present their own culture overseas.
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