Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Yoji Yamada adapts Yasujiro Ozu's "Early Summer" into a stage play

by Chris MaGee

In March I had the honour of seeing Yoji Yamada's filmed version of the 1905 kabuki play "Ninjoubanashi Bunshichi Mottoi (The Sentimental Plasterer)" here in Toronto when The Japan Foundation and Marty Gross Film Productions brought it to Toronto as part of Shochiku's Cinema Kabuki project. It was a real eye-opener for me having not expected such an earthy and hilarious production. It seemed like the perfect fit for Yamada whose "Tora-san" films charmed Japan for almost 30 years with their ne'er do well but good -hearted hero played by Kiyoshi Atsumi. Now Yamada (above left) is returning to stage direction, not with kabuki, but with its successor shinpa theatre and a stage adaptation of one of Japan's most revered filmmakers.

Yamada will be adapting none other than Yasujiro Ozu's 1951 domestic drama "Early Summer (Bakushu)" to the stage for a production at the Mitsukoshi Theater in Tokyo that will open in January of 2010. Ozu's film, which starred Setsuko Hara, Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama, and Ichirô Sugai amongst others, tells the story of how the Mamiya family attempts to find their 28-year-old daughter Noriko a husband, but instead of agreeing to the husband that's been arranged for her she breaks with tradition and follows her heart.

Yamada was apparently inspired to adapt Ozu's classic film to the stage after seeing a shimpa theatre production by the famed troupe Gekidan Shinpa. Shinpa theatre was developed in the early years of the 20th-century as a reaction to the traditional kabuki theatre. Its more naturalistic acting style and stories about everyday Japanese people and families were heavily influenced by Western theatre, and shinpa dramas and comedies went on to influence the work of Ozu himself.

The complete cast for Yamada's stage production of "Early Summer" has not yet been revealed, but it is assumed that two of Gekidan Shinpa's lead actresses, Yaeko Mizutani and Kuriko Namino, will be taking part.

Thanks to Tokyograph for the details on this.

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