Shu Matsui in the NY Times

Dan Grunebaum has written an article for the NY Times profiling Shu Matsui.

As he rightly points out

Abroad, Japanese theater directors are mainly known in the form of Amon Miyamoto’s Broadway hits and Yukio Ninagawa’s kabuki Shakespeare productions. Performances of new Japanese theater are rare, leaving a gaping hole in the world’s understanding of the country’s performing arts scene.

The reference to Miyamoto is interestingly timed, just as the director’s minimalist production of The Fantasticks opens in London. And in fact Matsui is writing his next play for Ninagawa (as he discusses later in the article).

Much of the profile focuses on Matsui’s recent plays, including F/T’s production of That Man’s World, which was performed with English surtitles.

The analysis of Matsui’s work centers around his “view of Japan as a zombie nation”.

Bestiality and rape appear in Mr. Matsui’s work, but the violence serves a cautionary purpose.

The contrast between Matsui, a unpreposing person, and the darker elements in his work makes for interesting context. Where does this violence com from? And certainly comparing That Man’s World with earlier plays like Tsuka you can see that the writer has grown more extreme, with louder, starker action on stage dominating the drama. (Tsuka, for example, contains only one slightly shocking scene towards the end, while That Man’s World continually pulled many sensitive strings.)

The significance of That Man’s World being translated, however, should not be overstated. It wasn’t actually performed in English and, as far as I know, Matsui has yet to have an overseas production. In fact, a number of leading fringe companies and writers’ works have been translated and is available in English (and French). These include Gotanndadan’s Shiro Maeda and Oriza Hirata, as well as the work of Hideki Noda and Shoji Shokami. (Of course there is also Toshiki Okada, but I personally think of him as a director rather than a playwright, since his texts could likely not be successfully produced by others.) They have all been performed abroad, often to a mixed reception, but there are many others waiting to be picked up, such as Daisuke Miura. There is still much to be done.


One response to “Shu Matsui in the NY Times

  1. Thanks for picking up my piece, and for your insightful comments.


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