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Reviewed by:
  • The Drunkard's Revenge and Love's Labor
  • Suzuki Masae
The Drunkard's Revenge and Love's Labor. Adapted and directed by Sekine Masaru from William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Performed by Roma Kyōgen, Japanese National Tour, 2005.

This report describes the current attempts by a Japanese expert to incorporate kyōgen techniques into traditional Shakespearean and Italian comedies. Sekine Masaru, drama scholar and master of the Kanze school, has written about the works of Yeats and Zeami, and directed style Western drama for international students at the Yeats Summer School Drama Workshop in Sligo and the Drama Center at the University College in Dublin (Sekine 1985, 1990). In 1998, the Japan Foundation sponsored his visit to the Japanese Division of the Faculty of Eastern Studies at the La Sapienza College of the University of Rome. There he trained faculty and students to perform Bōshibari (Tied to a Stick) and an adaptation of Kinoshita Junji's Yūzuru (Twilight Crane) in Italian. Since then, Sekine has been melding Italian comedy and kyōgen. In 1999, he adapted Carlo Goldoni's Coffee House (1750) into kyōgen style, producing it at the Drama Kan Theatre at Waseda University under the title of Wakadanna no Tobaku (The Young Master's Gambling). Around the same time he turned to Shakespearean comedies based on Italian sources, attempting to kyōgen-ize them for his classes at Waseda University. Thus his work is a unique project that explores the interface of comic character type, physical theatre, and the cultural capital of Shakepeare in intercultural theatre flows.1

Sekine returns to Rome every year, using his apartment as a kyōgen training studio for Italian students majoring in Japanese studies. The students [End Page 278] who volunteer are amateurs in drama, so, although interested in Japanese culture through Japanese animation and popular culture, they had difficulty reading and pronouncing the language. Sekine had to start by instructing them how to read the medieval kanji characters, flatten their dynamic intonation to make their Japanese more natural, and then teach them the undulating rhythms of kyōgen declamation. This was the beginning of the Roma Kyōgen Ichiza, or Piccola Compagnia di Roma La Sapienza.

On 1–2 April 2004, Sekine produced Yopparai no Shikaeshi (The Drunkard's Revenge) and Sakai no Shōnin (The Merchant of Sakai) at the Japanese Culture Center in Rome, cast with six students from Roma La Sapienza. The Drunkard's Revenge, an adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, was in Japanese, while The Merchant of Sakai was in Italian. In that autumn Roma Kyōgen Ichiza toured the National Nō Theatre in Tokyo, as well as to Saitama, Wakayama, and Kyoto, producing Drunkard's Revenge for Japanese audiences. Nearly three thousand people viewed the touring performances. In March the following year, the troupe produced their new play, Koi no Honeori (Love's Labour), in Rome, touring in autumn to Fukuoka, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Yokohama, and Tokyo. The 2,500 spectators for the autumn tour and coverage by five different television crews attest to the interest these performances generated. This review covers the 2005 Kyoto production, held at the Kongō Nō Theatre.

The plot of Drunkard's Revenge closely follows a subplot of Twelfth Night. Drawing on some Western slapstick, yet remaining faithful to kyōgen style and structure, the actors managed to create an amusing short comedy from Shakespeare. In Drunkard's Revenge, Yamashirō no Kami (the drunkard hero, equivalent to Sir Toby Belch) with his friend Noto no Kami (Sir Andrew Aguecheek), and Kaede (Maria), lady-in-waiting to Princess Ayu (Olivia), gain revenge on insults by Kinoshita Taizen (Malvolio) by having him dress in strange kimonos and engage in fights until Princess Ayu realizes the trick. The play ends with Taizen chasing Yamashirō off stage. Here we see a meeting of kyōgen's tricky servants and pompous lord with Shakepeare's plot pattern, topped off by the typical kyōgen ending: exit pursued by master.

Love's Labour sounds like an adaptation of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost, but it is actually a free kyōgen adaption of another...


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