I saw the Stone Crabs double bill of Mishima plays at Oval House last night. It was a bit of a reunion, since I know Kwong Loke (one of the directors), Wai Yin Kwok (designer), Yuka Yamanaka (performer), and bumped into Valerie Lucas, an academic who was in the audience! Small world or what?
The plays are very strange, as you'd expect with Mishima, I suppose. Strangeness is what makes theatre interesting... The first piece, Hanjo, is a three-hander, interestingly played by an all-female cast in this production. It's about a young geisha, who has gone mad with longing for her lover, and is being held by an unmarried woman painter. The gay subtext is very clear, and the fact that when the lover appears, he is played by another woman compounds it. The second piece, about a painter making a screen to represent hell, is remarkable. Yuka plays the painter's daughter, and draws off her knowledge of traditional Japanese dance in a very beautiful and characteristically controlled performance. The rest of the cast (except for the other woman) are Caucasian actors, dressed in modern grey business suits, and the effect is very powerful. Kwong says that the Japanese is deliberately written in an archaic style. I would have loved to hear the translation in a heightened English, like Barker or Barnes. This could have taken it into really fascinating territory. The translation into modern English just seemed a bit too banal for the exotic events portrayed.
Translation is notoriously difficult, of course. I met up with Al Parkinson earlier in the day, to discuss possible technical staff for the Trilogy, and we reminisced about how he'd had to supertitle into a English a scene in Hindi which seemed to change every night. Hopefully, we'll finally tie down the text this time round!