The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Archive Index Home
Presenter  Topics
Two Japanese Productions in Barbican Theater’s BITE09 International Program (From Jan. 2009)
      Known as the former base of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Barbican Center is today one of the largest comprehensive cultural centers in Europe. On the program BITE (Barbican International Theater Events) festival for the first half of 2009 are two Japanese theater productions, director Simon McBurney’s Shun-kin based on the works of Junichiro Tanizaki’s and director Yukio Ninagawa’s NINAGAWA Twelfth Night.

    BITE was launched in 1998 as an annual six-month-long festival and from 2002 it became a year-long festival offering a program of foreign theater, dance and music works that have been appreciated by the London audience. The year 2008 marked BITE’s tenth year, during which time it has invited many new works and undertaken collaboration productions with numerous overseas partners. The 10th anniversary program brought together such memorable works as the 9-hour epic poem Lipsynch by Robert Lepage, Favelization from Brazil’s hip hop carnival AfroReggae and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s XOVER.

    One of the opening works of BITE09 will be director Simon McBurney’s Shun-kin inspired by Junichiro Tanizaki’s Shunkinsho (A Portrait of Shunkin) and Inei raisan (In Praise of Shadows), a joint production with Complicite and the Setagaya Public Theatre. This work is an adaptation by McBurney of Tanizaki’s representative love story set in 19th-century Osaka about a blind shamisen master, Shin-kin, and a servant named Sasuke, in an innovative staging that employs conventions of the traditional arts in an attempt to portray essences of Japanese culture such as shamisen music, paper sliding-door, etc. This production premiered in February 2008 in Tokyo, and following performances from January 30 to February 21, 2009, in London it will play again in Tokyo.

    Also on the BITE09 schedule is the long awaited first London performance of the award-winning NINAGAWA Twelfth Night, the first Kabuki play by director Yukio Ninagawa, which debuted in 2005. In addition to a boldly designed set with a large blossoming cherry tree and giant panels of mirrors, this Kabuki version of the Shakespeare play employs a rich combination of traditional Kabuki musical accompaniment and harpsichord music. The London performances are scheduled for March 24 to 28, 2009. Repeat performances are also scheduled for Tokyo in June and Osaka in July. On this website you can find an interview with director Ninagawa from the time of the debut and also an interview with the production’s set designer Yuichi Kanai. For the program lineup of BITE09 until May and other details, please refer to the Barbican Center’s website.
+Barbican Center
+NINAGAWA Twelfth Night London performance website