Eighth Production: New As You Like It

For those who know Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ well, you may well be wondering where a certain line or a certain scene has gone. This time around, we decided not to faithfully remake this work on stage. In a way, this is the first time we have jumped away from Shakespeare.
Most of Shakespeare’s works have their origins in something else. ‘As You Like It’ is no exception, and Shakespeare has taken Thomas Lodge’s story ‘Rosalynde’ and made it his own. The setting for this story is Ardennes on the border between France and Belgium, but Shakespeare changed this to be like the Forest of Arden. Arden is also his mother’s maiden name and so this work is full of nostalgia for his hometown.
Shouyou Tsubouchi, a Japanese pioneer on Shakespeare, once wrote the following. ‘In his comedy, there is something that is dramatised with so much purity, optimism, serenity, brightness, cheerfulness, which has a specific point like no other, and one has to say that he makes the most delightful comedy.’ Why Tsubouchi comments ‘first and foremost delightful’ is because there are no tragic elements like those that can be seen in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and ‘The Twelfth Night’. There is no raging drama in this comedy, just a simmering gentleness. There is the town and the countryside, there are elements which contrast the gentleness and the harshness of nature, and there is the feeling of aspiration towards a Utopia and fleeing from reality. It is not just delightful but there is a kind of melancholy. However, the most memorable things are the unique temperament of the characters and the Forest of Arden with its ability to calm all who wander by. Somebody once said that the Forest of Arden is the main protagonist and it may just be that the magnetic charm of this play resides in the forest.
If you were to ask where is the Forest of Arden for those of us who live in North East Japan, it can be found at the beginning of our ‘As You Like It’. The answer, we realised, is the spa resort, and not a modern day one, but a spa resort from the middle of the Showa period (c1956-66). The reason for making the Forest of Arden into a spa from a few decades past was based on my childhood experiences of the Naruko Spa where we stayed with my weakening grandmother.
The street hawkers who called at you when you alighted from the train, the sound of the shamisen at dusk and the beautiful Geisha, the voices of the patrons coming and going to the spa, the click-clacking sound of the early morning milkman, the tranquility of the resting spa resort at midday and the atmosphere in the evening…..
When you hear the word ‘spa’, your heart is lifted. We think about submerging ourselves in the hot waters and stripping away the stiffness of the mind and the body. We think about distancing ourselves from everyday life and immersing ourselves in the atmosphere of the spa. Our Kaeruda Spa is a spa from a time period where the quality of the water, the customs and the people of the inn were more important than the food and the amenities. And we have tried to throw our characters into that situation. Some people may think that Rin Haruno is Rosalind, Saori Haruno is Celia, Mainichi Shimai and Maiko Shimizu are Phebe and Audrey but, in the end this play is a human comedy from the North East of Japan.
A Tohoku New Comedy that is not Yoshimoto New Comedy - this phrase came to mind as I was creating this comedy. As far as everyone is concerned, what are comedy and laughter? ‘As You Like It’ is our sixth production and once it is over it will be as if we are graduating from elementary school. And, once we awake from hibernation, we will attempt ‘Hamlet’. And whilst we use the reaction of our audience as our only mirror, I think we will need to build up our strength in order to make our plays richer and deeper.
The first performance of this play took place at the Waseda bath in the Naruko Spa resort, the inspiration for our adaptation. We were able to take strength from that strangely charming space and the welcoming smiles of the audience. Today, in a normal theatre, we hope you are able to share with us the warmth of that nostalgic spa resort and the vivid life of everyone there.






Seven and a half years have passed since writing these ‘Production Notes’. A lot of things have happened. There are certain things I remember about that time. I wrote the script in the room of the University hospital where my second daughter was staying after being born handicapped and suffering sever illness (my daughter and I spent nearly a whole year there). And that before writing the script, I read the original English version of ‘As You Like It’ from start to finish to my tiny daughter. Whilst gently stroking my daughter’s back as she was going through her painful treatment, I would loose myself in an imagined spa resort. And sometime after, I saw a Spanish film entitled ‘The Sea Inside’ in which there is a scene where Ramon, a quadriplegic, imagines that he jumps through the window from his bed and into the sea. When I saw this scene I thought that, for me, ‘As You Like It’ was ‘The Sea Inside’. And through writing, how I have been saved, how I have been calmed! Now, my tiny daughter is well and commuting to elementary school.