Under the Radar 2012: Hideki Noda on “The Bee”
Many thanks to our friends at the Japan Society for facilitating and producing this video interview–conducted by Mark Russell (see our interview with him here)–for us, with legendary Japanese theater artist Hideki Noda. Originally a co-production between the Tokyo Metropolitan Theater and London’s Soho Theater, Noda’s 2006 work, The Bee, is one of two shows the Japan Society is helping bring to New York this January as part of Under the Radar (the other is by Toshiki Okada and chelfitsch).
My knowledge of Japanese theater history is, sadly, limited, but from what I understand, Mr. Noda was a leading light of the last wave of what’s known as Shôgekijô, or “Small Theater.” Somewhat akin to the Off-Broadway (or even Off-off-Broadway) movement, Small Theater was the term applied to the alternative experimental companies that began emerging in the 1960s. These companies were responding to the dominant realist approach favored by the Japanese regional theater establishment. Noda emerged as one of the foremost Japanese directors (though he also wears hats as writer and performer) during the 1980s, bringing the alternative into the mainstream with a company he founded while still in college, before abruptly disbanding it at the height of its popularity to spend a while learning new techniques in London.
On the face of it, The Bee is a fairly straightforward story about the fine line between victim and victimizer. A man comes home one day for his kid’s birthday to find a violent madman holding his family hostage. In retaliation, he in turn takes the hostage-taker’s family hostage, and quickly proves himself capable of equal, if not greater, acts of violence. Written by Noda in English and further developed by Irish playwright Colin Teevan, the show features the noted British actress Kathryn Hunter in a gender-bending lead role (along with Noda himself). Hunter was recently seen in New York in Peter Brook’s collection of Beckett shorts Fragments, along with fellow Complicite members Jos Houben and Marcello Magni (the latter of whom will be appearing in The Bee when it plays Hong Kong and Tokyo in 2012). For a little more perspective, we invite you to check out our interview with Houben about Fragments and Complicite.
For a broader interview with Noda, you can see this one in the English language Japan Times. I’ve also discovered this site, from the Japan Foundation, which is an excellent resource on Japanese performing arts; sadly, they don’t have interviews with Noda, but they do have coverage of most of his work as well as features on many of his collaborators. The Bee plays Jan. 5-15 at the Japan Society; tickets $25.