For those who really know Shakespeare's "As You Like It" they will probably think where is such and such a line or where is that where..? This time I have given up
trying to faithfully theaterize the original. Therefore, it is the first work where we have jumped away from Shakespeare.
Most of Shakespeare's works have a source book. "As You Like It" is no exception and Shakespeare made the story of "Rosalind" by Thomas Lodge completely his own. In "Rosalind" the stage was a place called Ardenne on the French and Belgian border and Shakespeare changed Ardenne to the image of the Forest of Arden from his hometown. Arden was also his mother's maiden name and so this work is full of longing for his hometown.
The thing that makes the pioneer of Shakespeare in Japan, Tsubouchi Shoyou say that this work is 'in all accounts cheerful' is the fact that in "Much Ado about Nothing" and "Twelfth Night" there are no tragic elements to be seen. There is no powering drama in this comedy; it is blazingly calm. There are, at its core, the contrasts between the city and the countryside, the harshness and gentleness of nature, and there is the feeling of yearning to escape reality for some ideal abode. It's not all just cheery happiness but there is a kind of ambiguous melancholy there. However, the things that stick in the mind the most are the unique dispositions of the characters and the spiritually calming effect the Forest of Arden has on all that pass by. Somebody once said the protagonist of this play is the Forest of Arden but even more so, I think the magnetism of this work is in the Forest of Arden itself.
When we first started "As You Like It" we asked ourselves where is the Forest of Arden for us lot who live in Tohoku? Then we realised, the answer was in a hot-spring resort, and not in modern-times but a hot-spring from around 1955-65. The reason why our Forest of Arden became a hot-spring from an earlier age was that when I was young we had to take my ailing grandma to stay at Naruko hot-spring.
Alighting from the train and seeing the entertainment sellers; the sound of the shamisen and the look of the beautiful geisha at dusk; the various voices of those going from and coming to the inns; the clinking of the early morning milkman; the calming peace of a midday hot-spring and the twilight atmospherec
Whenever one hears the word 'hot-spring' no matter who you are, your heart rises. We hope to strip away the stiffness of our heart and body by plunging into the hot waters. We want to distance ourselves from everyday life and melt into the atmosphere of the hot-spring. Our Aden hot-spring is from the era when, more than the inn's amenities or the food, the quality of the spring itself and the hot-spring's atmosphere was more important. It is there that we have set our characters free. Certain people may think that Haruno Rin is Rosalind, Haruno Shiori is Celia, Mainichi Shimai and Shimizu Maiko are Phoebe and Audrey, but the play is in the end a human drama from Tohoku.
A Tohoku new comedy without becoming a Yoshimoto new comedy ? I thought of these words whilst creating this comedy. What is comedy and laughter for everyone? "As You Like It" is our sixth production but when it's finished we will feel like we have at long last graduated from elementary school. And so, after a short hibernation, the long awaited attempt at "Hamlet". Whilst seeing everyone's reaction as the mirror, I want to muster enough strength to be able to make our production a deep and enriching one.
The stage for the first show was Waseda Zanshiki bath at Naruko hot-spring which itself was the starting point for this script. We got a lot of power from the strange attractive atmosphere and the warm smiling faces of the customers. Today in a normal theatre we hope everyone will be able to feel the cosiness of an older style hot-spring resort and the vivacious lives of the people therein.