The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Home > Culture > Finding Shakespeare Exhibition


Finding Shakespeare Exhibition

Ayami Oki-Siekierczak
Research Associate, Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, Waseda University

In 2012, the World Shakespeare Festival is being held in London, the United Kingdom. Artists, researchers and educators gather to explore the unique reception of Shakespeare which exists in their countries. 37 of Shakespeare's plays in 37 different languages were performed at Shakespeare's Globe. During the Worlds Together Conference which was held at Tate Modern, a broad discussion was held regarding the future reception of Shakespeare, including education for young generations. A popular event at the British Museum is the Staging the World Exhibition, which introduces Shakespeare and the reception of Shakespeare in the United Kingdom.

In 2012, lively debate is being held regarding the reception of Shakespeare. Indeed, it is the perfect year to reflect on each country's unique reception of Shakespeare. From October 16th to December 16th, 2012, the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum will hold the Finding Shakespeare Exhibition. This exhibition examines how Japan has treated Shakespeare based on a comparison with reception of Shakespeare in the United Kingdom. The exhibition also explores the possibilities for reception of Shakespeare in the future.

The exhibition is composed of two sections for Japan and England which are set opposite one another. The section on reception of Shakespeare in England features the first-ever display of the First Folio, Second Folio, Third Folio and Fourth Folio from our museum's collection. The exhibition also features special information on the Fourth Folio, miniature books, the play Twelfth Night (limited release in the early 20th century) and related printed woodblocks, as well as designs of stage art made by Charles Ricketts.

The section on reception of Shakespeare in Japan features a variety of items including Shakespeare-related materials from the former collection of Shoyo Tsubouchi, translations/adaptations from the initial period of Shakespeare in Japan, stage art and costume design by the stage lighting specialist Shizuo Toyoma, and stage art design/models by the scenographer Ichiro Takada. The materials related to Shoyo Tsubouchi include memos and notebooks he used when undertaking the great project of translating all of Shakespeare's works, the first such project in Japan.

From within these exhibits, this article will introduce materials related to stage sets and costume design. From the section on reception of Shakespeare in England, I will discuss the stage designs by Charles Ricketts. From the section on reception of Shakespeare in Japan, I will explain the stage sets and costume designs by Shizuo Toyama.

Stage set diagrams by Charles Ricketts (King Lear)

Original stage set design (palace) painted by Ricketts for King Lear

In 1866, Charles Ricketts (1866-1931) was born to a father serving in the British Navy and an Italian mother of French descent. His birthplace was the city of Geneva. Ricketts was an artist who worked in numerous artistic fields including bookbinding and painting. He was particularly active as an illustrator and bookbinder during the golden age of illustration which occurred in England from the late 19th century until the 1930s. (The exhibition also introduces Arthur Rackham and other illustrators who were active during this period.) For a short while, Ricketts had the hobby of providing designs to thespians who were friends of him.

In 1909, Herbert Trench began managing the Haymarket. On September 8th, a performance featuring Ricketts's designs was held in order to commemorate Trench's appointment as manager. Shakespeare's King Lear was selected for the memorial performance. The role of King Lear was played by Norman McKinnel, who also worked as the stage director.

Among Rickett's designs, King Lear's palace resembled a reconstructed Stonehenge. The palace featured a circular design shaped from an arched tower of square stones. Rising up from dim lighting, the palace's grave atmosphere created a timeless sense of solemnity and honor. In front of the estate of the Earl of Gloucester, an image is displayed which is narrower and higher than the palace. The stone walls emphasized the pressure exerted on King Lear by his daughters. The low gate leading to the moor seemed to be the only road accessible to King Lear.

Until now, the only well-known designs related to the 1909 performance of King Lear were from the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in England and the Australian National Gallery. However, recent surveys have conclusively shown that materials from the former collection of Shoyo Tsubouchi are original designs drawn for the 1909 performance of King Lear.

Designs by Shizuo Toyama (The Comedy of Errors)

Shizuo Toyama (1895-1986) became fully involved in set lighting from 1920. Together with Yoshi Hijikata and Kisaku Ito, he participated in the Tonboya Association, a group which focused on stage art and was led by Ryo Tanaka, who had traveled America and Europe while researching stage art. In addition to studying stage lighting, Toyama conducted a thorough independent study of playwriting, performing and theatre construction. In 1922, Toyama entered the Ichimura Theatre. Afterwards, he supervised stage lighting in a variety of fields such as modern theatre, modern kabuki and modern dance. In 1929, he founded the Toyama Institute of Lighting (TIL). In 1936, he entered employment at Toho, holding the positions of Stage Chief and Literary Manager before being appointed as Director of the Imperial Theatre. After World War II, he held the position of Instructor at the Nihon University School of Art and was appointed the first Chairperson for the Japan Association of Lighting Engineers & Designers. Afterwards, he served as a consultant and then as an advisor to Japan Performing Arts Association.

On January 8th, 1951, the Kindai Gekijo Theatre held a performance of The Comedy of Errors at Okuma Auditorium using a script which was translated by Shoyo Tsubouchi. The same month, Toyoma drew designs for the performance. "Originally, Shakespeare's plays were performed without a stage set," he said. "Therefore, designers have free hand to try any design that they want. This is a very interesting aspect, like a treasure box for set designers." From this quote, it is apparent how Toyoma was interested for many years in designing sets for Shakespeare's works.

Stage set drawing for The Comedy of Errors

Material from the Kindai Gekijo Theatre: The Comedy of Errors, stage set drawing 2

Material from the Kindai Gekijo Theatre: The Comedy of Errors, costume design drawings

This concludes my introduction for a portion of designs which were drawn for performances and are included in the materials displayed for the Finding Shakespeare Exhibition. The exhibition also displays numerous other precious materials. This exhibition regarding the reception of Shakespeare in England and Japan was made possible through cooperation from the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and support from the British Council. We also received great cooperation from the Shakespeare's Globe in London and the Shakespeare Center in Stratford-upon-Avon. I would like to once again express my deep gratitude towards all cooperating organizations and individuals.

Theatre Course: Finding Shakespeare

In conjunction with the exhibition, we also plan to hold a theatre course regarding the reception of Shakespeare. The course will allow students to experience the reception of Shakespeare through actual performance, a lecture and workshop. Scheduled details are listed below.

Date & Time:
 October 19th, 2012; from 7:00pm
Waseda University, Ono Memorial Hall
Maturing Shakespeare(live performance)
Performers: Noa Mifune, Kohei Hayashida
A session for experiencing changes in texts written by Shakespeare. The session traces the modifications to texts of Shakespeare performances, beginning with quartos and folios which were published in the 17th century and proceeding through the Victorian Era. It also examines how the texts came to Japan and were translated. While using video to introduce the reception of Shakespeare and changes to texts, special attention is given to the dialogue between Hamlet and Ophelia which immediately precedes the middle act of the three-act play. The same scene is compared by using modern texts, texts translated in the Showa Period, texts by Tsubouchi, and never before performed texts which predate Tsubouchi. For the modern version, all scenes are performed until the beginning of the middle act. The performance ends by establishing a relationship with the audience and the philosophy that "all the world is a stage." The next session then begins.
Break Time
Womanising Shakespeare(Lecture)
Presenter:Norihito Nakayashiki
A lecture by Norihito Nakayashiki, who currently presides over the Kakikuukyaku Theatre. Focusing on the Womanising Shakespeare series which began in 2011, a debate will be held regarding the issue of how to handle Shakespeare texts which are translated into Japanese.
Visualising Shakespeare(Workshop)
Presenters: Tom de Freston & Kiran Millwood Hergrave
A lecture will be given by a British painter Tom de Freston and a British writer Kiran Milwood Hergrave. De Freston will discuss portraying the world of Shakespearean theatre without using text. Additionally, a discussion of the meaning of texts will be given by Kiran Milwood Hergrave, who creates works inspired by the works of de Freston.
1) Discussion focusing on the work Endgame by de Freston and Hergrave.
The discovery of a Beckett-like sense of desolation within King Lear is an interpretation which draws upon the influence of the Polish Shakespearean scholar Jan Knott, who also influenced Peter Brook.
2) Audience participation.
Audience members will be asked to prepare their paper and writing instruments (scheduled to be distributed before the workshop). Then, de Freston's MSND will be shown on a screen and the audience will be asked to write words which they associate with the work. Audience members will have the experience of interpreting and responding to de Freston's work in order to submit a singular work as a response.

Ayami Oki-Siekierczak
Research Associate, Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, Waseda University

Obtained her master's degree in English literature at the University College London. Obtained her PhD at the Faculty of Humanities, University of the Sacred Heart, Tokyo. Assumed her current position in April 2011.