New Plays 日本の新作戯曲
(2003 / YOUNG VIC THEATER, UK)
Written and Directed by Hideki Noda
photo by Keith Pattison
First Performance: 1996
Acts / Scenes: 16
Cast: 4 (3 men, 1 woman)
(Note: 4 performers play over 25 roles.)
This play is about a woman "killed by a bowl of shark’s fin soup."
Three persons, The Woman, her dimwit brother Tombi, and her wannabe seducer, the liar Mizukane, are washed ashore on a distant island. Given some shark fin soup, The Woman claims that it tastes different from the soup she ate out at sea. Later, she commits suicide. From this point on, Tombi doubles as narrator of her story.
One day, Akaoni suddenly appears in the village. A false rumour spreads that The Woman, who is ostracized by the villagers, lured Akaoni to their land. Mizukane tries to seduce the Woman. But when Akaoni is found hiding in her house, he and Tombi are terrified of being devoured. They soon learn that it does not eat human flesh, only flowers.
At night, Akaoni, intending no harm, runs off with a baby. Frantic, the villagers use flowers to trap Akaoni in a cave. Negotiations between the Elder, Mizukane, and The Woman result in a deal: the baby will be returned on the condition that the villagers let Akaoni alone for 7 days.
However as soon as the baby is rescued, the villagers attack the cave. They are stunned by what they see. Akaoni has painted the walls with a paradisiacal landscape. The Woman tells them that the painting is of the land "beyond the sea" and that Akaoni is a god. The villagers decide to keep their promise.
During the truce, The Woman teaches Akaoni her language. Meanwhile, Akaoni and Tombi notice something extraordinary out at sea, but in their excitement forget what exactly they saw. Soon Akaoni is accepted by everyone as a friendly freak, and tourists come to ogle the ogre. The Woman is angry that people treat Akaoni as a spectacle rather than a human being.
Six months later, Tombi remembers what he saw a huge ship. The villagers believe that Akaoni’s friends are on the ship and fearful of an invasion, they put Akaoni and The Woman on trial. As a result, the two are sentenced to death. While awaiting execution, The Woman learns from Akaoni’s cave writings that the demons have always journeyed in search of an ideal land, that Akaoni came to ascertain whether the village was their utopia, and that the ship has already left the local waters on the crew’s assumption that Akaoni was dead.
Mizukane and Tombi help The Woman and Akaoni escape, expecting to be able to join the ship. The four set out in a boat, but discover that the ship has left. Deprived of food, they are in hysterically good spirits as they slowly starve, and Akaoni is the first to die.
The play returns to the opening scene. Rescued, The Woman realizes that the shark fin soup Mizukane gave her at sea when she was faint with hunger was really Akaoni’s flesh. The Woman remembers telling Akaoni, “You are a demon because you eat humans.” But she has learnt instead that "Humans eat demons to survive." In despair she commits suicide.
Tombi winds up his story, saying, "And beyond the sea, at the very bottom, lies my little sister’s heart."
NODA started Yume no Yuminsha in 1976 while he was still a student at the University of Tokyo. Creating a number of notable works, he rose to prominence as a leader of the small-theater movement, which underwent a boom in the 1980s. He became a favorite of the era with his dramatic structures that eaped across time and space as though passing back and forth between the present world and the world of myth, his voluble wordplay, and the fast-paced liveliness of his performance style. He disbanded the troupe in 1992. After a period of study in London, he established NODA MAP in 1993 to create plays through workshops and produce them by casting popular actors. The resulting productions attracted considerable attention. NODA also engaged in deliberate experimentation using Kabuki plots and staging, international joint productions with foreign actors, and so on. He has received numerous drama awards, including the Kishida Kunio Drama Award and the Asahi Performing Arts Award. He has also taken his work overseas, with the play Red Demon, for example, being performed in Thailand and the United Kingdom.