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Thursday 11 October 2012

Theatrical Thursday: Noho Theatre Group & Beckett

An excellent and interesting little documentary about a Japanese theatre group (Noho) performing Beckett, described by director Jonah Salz.

The theatre styles Salz mentions are; kyogen and noh.

Beckett and Japanese Theatre - some of my musings

There is a sparsity and strangeness about both that seems to suggest some kinship. Indeed, although Beckett wrote in English, French, and German there seems still to be something fundamentally un-European about him. Perhaps it is his Gaelic/Celtic nature that is part of Europe but yet distant, culturally, from this also. Something alien among a wider society, like a cuckoo in the nest. Some aspect of Beckett's work always seems to be searching for a home or else suffering from some sort of home-sickness or world-weariness, what Freud called the uncanny.

Japanese culture for so long utterly isolated from the rest of the world (although we now respect this, but yet are suspicious of North Koreans for the same policy of voluntary isolation) and yet derived from the Chinese, developed something quite unique artistically in their retreat from the world.

What about the idea of intercultural theatre, is there something inherently problematic in the transposing of a play from one culture to another? We might not think Beckett such a problem, his plays were mostly devoid of any specific cultural references. Is the problem then applying a cultural paradigm to a playwright whose works were mostly acultural? 

There's a problem with something being acultural, namely that we can't escape our context, or rather, we can't escape a cultural context. We might be transcultural (as Beckett was) but we are not denying (cannot deny) the cultural aspect (and it's influence). In a sense then all theatre must be retold from the current group and director's perspective, something imposed upon the playwright's original vision, even if they share the same culture. Although this difference would be less, but what a intercultual play might show are aspects in the original that were 'hidden' (now I don't really mean hidden, but that they were things one could not see without this version of the play) before. Intercultural theatre is therefore doing something no difference from setting a Shakespeare play in the 21st century, but it uses the cultural difference to highlight relevant features. What these are might vary from culture to culture.