The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
First Performance: 2006
Performance time: 1 hour 15 min.
Acts / Scenes: One act
Cast: 10 (9men, 1 women)
Japanese Drama Database
Play of the Month Play of the Month
THE BEE   Hideki Noda & Colin Teevan 
This play is based on the 1976 short story Mushiriai (Plucking At Each Other) by novelist Yasutaka Tsutsui and has been composed as an original English-language play by Hideki Noda with the final writing by the Irish playwright Colin Teevan based on a workshop involving Noda, Teevan and British actors. The play premiered at London’s Soho Theatre from June 21 to July 15, 2006 starring actress Kathryn Hunter and Noda.

The script is not written as a translation from the Japanese but as an original English script for the English-speaking audience making full use of the conventions of English playwriting such as poetic inversion, rhyme and tone in metered language. It is also a work with plenty of cynical humor that British audiences enjoy.

The play is set in a Tokyo residential area in 1974. The office worker Ido (played by Kathryn Hunter) is on his way home from another long day at his office. Today is his son’s birthday and he has bought a surprise present.

As he approaches the house, however, he finds it surrounded by turmoil, with police cars and TV camera crews and reporters. He learns that an escaped convict named Ogoro who is serving a 20-year sentence for murder has holed up in Ido’s house with his wife and son as hostages.

Angered by the fact that his own wife has found a new man and wants to divorce him, Ogoro stole the gun of a prison guard and escaped from prison. He demands that the police bring his wife to him. A detective named Dodoyama has tried to convince Ogoro’s wife to come and talk to him but he reports that she is too scared to agree.

The media and the police swarm around the “victim” Ido when after his arrival on the scene. Seeing the overbearing arrogance of the media and the reluctance of the police to take any measures to rescue the hostages, Ido gradually begins to deviate from the accepted course of action …. “I feel sympathy for Mr Ogoro. He has a son too, whom he hoped to see on his birthday –,” I do says in front of the reporters.

Ido asks the police to take him to Ogoro’s wife (played by Hideki Noda), who makes her living as a stripper, so that he can try to convince her to come and reason with her husband. The wife resists, swinging a baseball bat that she has bought as a birthday present for her son. Ido wrestles the bat away from the wife and uses it to knock down the the policeman.

“I'd no aptitude for being a victim,” realizes Ido. He takes the gun from the policeman’s holster, nails shut the doors and windows of the house and takes Ogoro’s wife and son as hostages and turns himself into the perpetrator of a bloody game of negotiation of his own.

Ido has a direct telephone line hooked up between the two houses and begins to negotiate with Ogoro directly. Ogoro’s wife offers to try to talk her husband into surrendering, but Ido tells her it is too late. A TV reporter has climbed through a storage room window to try to get a shot of what is going on in the house but Ido catches on. Angered at the intrusion, Ido fires a shot into the ceiling, at which the wife faints and the son wets his pants.

Annoyed by a bee that has somehow found its way into the room, Ido succeeds in trapping it under a cup he found nearby. “You leave my house, or though I have always considered myself a pacifist, I shall kill you son and rape your wife.” says Ido.

Ido makes Ogoro’s wife cook him a dinner. With his stomach full now and feeling in good spirits, Ido carelessly picks up a cup to have a drink, but it was the cup with the bee in it.

Ido gets upset in the process of trying to shoot the bee with his gun and finally ends up raping Ogoro’s wife.

Fed up with Ogoro’s refusal to release his wife and son, Ido tells Ogoro that he has raped his wife and cut off one of his son’s fingers, and he orders the detective Dodoyama to deliver the finger to Ogoro. Wild with anger, Ogoro gets revenge by doing the same to Ido’s wife and son

The two men repeat the process of making each other’s wives cook for them, rape them and cut off finger of the sons and deliver them to each other until there is no food left in the two houses and no more fingers to cut off.

The wives and sons die and the public’s interest in the two men wanes and the media and the police begin to go off to cover new crimes. In the end only Ido, Ogoro and the finger-bearer detective Dodoyama are the only ones left.

A now dazed Ido picks up the receiver one more time and threatens, “And next, I shall send my own finger round.”

At the moment he is about to cut off his own finger, the dying bee comes flying over. Ido opens the door to let the bee out and then picks up the knife again.

Fading into the dark is the image of himself at the end of another long day at the office, walking home with a surprise present he has bought for his son’s birthday…

Profile: Born: 1955
Born 1955. In 1976 Noda started the theater company “Yume no Yumin-sha” while a student at Tokyo University. Creating a number of hits in the 1980s, Noda won fame as a leading figure in the small-theater scene. With a style of drama that jumped freely in time and space between the present and the age of the myths, a penchant for deft play on words and a performance style that had his characters running helter-skelter around the stage, Noda became the darling of Japan’s theater world of the day. In 1992 he disbanded his company and, after a period of study in Britain, he formed a new company named “Noda Map” in 1993, which would turn out one hit after another in a production style that involved casting popular actors and developing plays in a workshop context. With the play Aka Oni (Red Demon), he took his productions abroad for the first time to Thailand and the UK. Noda has also expanded his activities ambitiously into new areas such as using Kabuki actors and staging for productions of his Noda version Togitatsu no Utare and Nezumikozo and international collaborations with foreign actors. He is the winner of numerous prizes such as the Kishida Drama Award and the Asahi Performing Arts Award. In December of 2006 he will release his new work, Rope.