The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Contents
Presenter Interview
This interview explores the actor education system at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, an institution with a 100-year history
We are now in the era of the Internet, which now takes up a lot of people’s time. There are some concerns that younger people are not coming to the theatre. How do you regard the role of theatre now?
What we are doing with our actors really is to say that you need these skills, such as voiceovers, Shakespeare dramas etc. We prepare them for the industry that exists. We give them skills but they have to go out and re-make the theatre. They have to find their own generation of audience. In the 1960s, my generation tried to find new audience. We had a passion to encourage a different kind of people to come into the theatre. Now they have to find the tastes of the young audience and find how to keep the theatre alive. We try to make students aware of what’s outside the theatre. That’s what interests the audience. How does the theatre reflect the world outside and give some meaning for people’s lives.

Could you tell us about RADA’s connection with Japan?
RADA’s connection with Japan is my connection with Japan, actually. In1997 I began to host some of the early Bunka-cho (Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs) scholars, who came over for the first time while I was at the Unicorn theatre. Then, when I moved to RADA, many other people came over to study here with us. And, soon after I came to RADA, the director of Subaru came to study. He became interested in the idea of creating a workshop for Japanese professional actors in his training studio. So in 1993, the same year I became principal, I went over to run a workshop in Subaru in Japan. We have a link now with Furano-juku for regional workshops.

Which Japanese modern plays has RADA shown here?
Tomodachi by Abe Kobo and Fuyuhiko by Nozomi Makino. We invited Japanese director, Masaharu Yoshiiwa, to direct Tomodachi with RADA students here. Fuyuhiko was directed by Ganshi Murata as a part of the Japan Festival 2001. It is not easy, however, as the cultural context is different. They both know our work well and I spend a lot of time talking with them about the training work at RADA, so they were able to work with our actors very well. Also, they could explain to the students about the cultural context of these family dramas in Japan. The audience were very interested.
Students find it is difficult to begin with, because they have to think in a different way. They have to try to get into the thinking mode of a Japanese person, where particularly family relationships are very different. Also, reflection in the father of Fuyuhiko is quite difficult for our actors, especially to have that calm inner centre. In the end, they were really fascinated and it was very good training.

Can you tell me about the theatres at RADA and what your management policy is for them?
RADA has three theatres. There is the the Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre, which is the largest and seats two hundred. Then we have the GBS Studio Theatre (80 seats) named after George Bernard Shaw, who was a great benefactor of RADA. Then we have a small theatre (60 seats) named after the distinguished Shakespearean actor John Gielgud, who was a RADA graduate.
The policy is that during the term time, the theatre is there not only for the acting students but also for the technical students. But, when we have space in the vacation we are open to hiring out the theatre. Motoya Izumi hired out a few years ago for his Kyogen production.

Have you got any other involvement with Japanese theatre planned in the near future?
We have seen traditional work but there are not enough contemporary Japanese plays seen here. I hope that soon we can do another contemporary Japanese play. Mike Bradwell of the Bush Theatre has had a play reading of one of Ai Nagai’s plays. I got to know Mr. Tsuchida from “Mono” Theatre Company in Kyoto very well. He is a very interesting young writer. I saw one of his plays in Shimo-kitazawa. I have one or two ideas and also I am looking at a number of different contemporary plays. But, I do not want to say which ones yet.
From 1995 to 2000, we ran a four-week course for Japanese actors in London, but we had to suspend that course for five years because we were rebuilding the school and we did not have the space. I hope to start that again in 2007 when we have the new building.
 
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