From Hamlet to Hamule

#33 Spring 2004

From Hamlet to Hamule

On the evening of January 27th 1999 the after finishing our performances of "Twelfth Night" I, for the first time in a while, went drinking with Maruyama Osami in the west side of Shinjuku. Whilst throwing back the beers, I have a feeling I suddenly turned to him and said 'Maruyamasan, why don't you work on a script of Macbeth with me?'


The first time I met Maruyamasan was definitely in 1980, at a yakitori bar known as the Salaryman' Daigaku in front of Higashi Koganei station. I had only just started my diploma course, but I got along well with Maruyamasan, who had quit being an assistant director at Iwanami films to write novels, and we thought about starting our own reading circle. After about three years we had read with gusto classics both new and old all over. The finished product was decided and over cold beers and iced tofu we talked until we were blind drunk. It was a strangely enjoyable time.


One day a few months after the Shinjuku meeting we found ourselves at Onikoube hot-spring in Miyagi prefecture, immersed in our work of translplanting "Hamlet" into Tohoku of ancient Japan. And so, the fruit of that reading circle started by two was 'Macbeth of Osorezan'. And the joy of creating with a friend with such genius and whom I could trust continued with "As You Like It at a hot-spring resort".


I have always been afraid of "Hamlet". The more and more I read it, and the more and more I watch it, the more worried I become. Firstly it is long, and there is a swamp of ambiguity and doubt as to where it leads. To reach the highest pinnacle of the theatrical world I decided I would borrow the skills of another two people.


Firstly, Mr Kanomata Masayoshi who, when we played "Synge" translated "Riders to the Sea ", and took on the important role of editorial manager for the Company. The second was Mr Sugawara Hirohide who, whilst working at NTT, is also active as a producer.


The four of us in a room encircling a fire and talking about "Hamlet" ? I secretly thought of the scripting work of Kurosawa Akira and Ozu Yasujiro.


The joint conceptualisation which started at an overnight camp in Aizuwakamatsu in 2002, continued through my computer when I was studying in England (I must thank Mr. Hishida Nobuhiko for this), and soon after I returned in the autumn of 2003 we were able to throw out all the ideas that had been brewing in each of us. At the end of a very heated debate, we started to hear the heartbeat of a "Hamlet of the Oushuu Bakumatsu".


We eliminated things that seemed obvious to the best of our ability. Everyone talking freely was important. Firstly, we read the original thoroughly, and then we placed importance on every thought that boiled up in each of us. Starting from there, we discussed criticism concerning "Hamlet", various productions, the political situations in twelfth century Denmark and sixteenth Century England, and transplanted the spirit of the work gently into the Bakumatsu period of Tohoku Japan.


The eyes of novelist Maruyama from Tokyo, the eyes of Sugawara who holds a scholarship on the Boshin Wars, the eyes of Kanomata as a researcher of English Literature, and the eyes of me having lived in the UK for just over a year; the eyes of these four people colliding violently in the search for the explanation of the truth of life, and the shakes and splits housed in "Hamlet" and in a Japan which needed to face the west and open up; the eyes slowly converged on the worries of a Tohoku which was simply hesitating and unable to act.


The birth of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" as "Hamule of the Oushuu Bakumatsu" is close at hand.



The Bakumatsu has a certain charm to it. However, the presence of a Tohoku person in the Bakamatsu is like Rosencrantz or Guildenstern. And this is despite the fact that the epicentre of the Boushin Wars was the Aizu clan. 'There is no-one from Tohoku in this period' ? I read this quote by Iwakura Tomomi passed on by Katsu Kaishu somewhere and I resented it. As I read into the Bakumatsu period a picture of a Tohoku hesitating and unable to act sprang to mind. Through "Hamlet" we want to make the young Tohoku people brimming with passion (but who would never appear in a Japanese history textbook) shine. That is the thought behind our "Hamlet".