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Posts Tagged ‘Nino Furuhata’

I suppose going to see a stage adaptation in Japanese of a book you haven’t read is a questionable decision. Reading up in advance I discovered that it contained a number of riddles and the novelist, Haruki Murakami, suggested that reading it several times was the key to understanding it. Others have suggested reading earlier works to aid understanding. There are surtitles, but they were badly positioned, requiring you to miss much visually, and I’m not sure if you read every word you’d be much wiser anyway. By the interval I was exhausted and befuddled; my brain was hurting trying to work it all out. Somehow in the second half though it cast a spell and I was surprised to find myself enchanted and moved, even though I hadn’t completed the jigsaw.

The two parallel stories involve Kafka, a teenage boy who’s mother and sister left home when he was very young and he too has now run away, and Nakata, an old man who was struck by a strange affliction when he was the same age as the teenage boy towards the end of the second world war as a result of which he can communicate with cats. Kafka is befriended by a trans-gender librarian and Nakata by a truck driver. Kafka has an alter ego who appears to him as a crow. The senior librarian, where Kafka is now a trainee, may be his mother and Nakata may have killed his father, a sculptor who appears as the man on the Johnnie Walker bottle. Oh, and there’s Colonel Sanders as a pimp, a pair of angry feminists and a prostitute who spouts philosophy whilst on the job – and the cats are wonderful. It plays with concepts of time space and memory and at times feels like a detective story.

It’s striking staging, with every scene taking place in a large glass case, much like a museum, whatever it’s location – office, home, shrine, truck, woods, library etc. These include a bank of vending machines and a row of urinals! These cases are manually moved around the stage and lit by neon lights within and spots from above. I found myself enthralled by the scene changes as well as the scenes. The lighting is crucial and it’s terrific. The performances are uniformly excellent, with Nino Furuhata a charming Kafka and Katsumi Kiba captivating and funny as Nakata.

This stage adaptation by Frank Galati started out in English at Steppenwolf in Chicago and has now gone full circle and been translated into Japanese and brought to the UK. Murakami says he doesn’t want to see stage or film adaptations of his what is in his head, and I do wonder if this is the sort of story that’s better left to your own visual imagination, but for me it was lovely to see the Ninagawa Company do a modern piece, inventively staged, alongside the more traditional Hamlet; between them they illustrate Ninagawa’s genius perfectly. A lovely 80th celebration for us, even though he sadly couldn’t make his own party.

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