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Rashomon on stage in the US

RashomonPort City Playhouse in Alexandria, Virginia, United States is currently staging a theatre adaptation of Kurosawa’s Rashomon. It has apparently got some fairly good reviews.

Based on the reviews, the work seems to follow Kurosawa’s film quite faithfully. Oh yes, and if you go tomorrow (Friday 12th), you can apparently meet with the actors and director, as well get some Japanese food. Let us know how it was if you can make it!

In related news, Ping Chong’s Throne of Blood is, I think, now playing in New York.




The New York Times gives a nice overview of the production….

… and then gives it a lousy review! Seems the critic is a Kurosawa fan.


Mark Mesaros

I saw the Throne of Blood piece at BAM. It was pretty terrible in terms of translating film language into theater. Nothing original, and worse, far too literal. Dialogue was atrocious. I kid you not, Chong referenced the titles of at least a dozen other Kurosawa films; one character even says, “Boy, I feel like a stray dog”! Not to mention the ostentatious theft of Shakespeare’s prose (often verbatim) elsewhere.

The actors were underwhelming. They couldn’t decide whether they were in Elizabethan England or ancient Japan. One guy (Washizu’s predecessor I believe) took the Japanese enunciatory of accenting the last syllable way over the top when he wasn’t forgetting his lines altogether.

The saving grace (or the only grace) was to be found in the costuming and set pieces. Ironically this weakened the whole affair because it felt overproduced and hollow. Expensive equipment (triple wide-screen video montage, spooky surround sound, fog machines, lavish sets) at the expense of real drama.

I felt embarrassed for BAM. And I know the rest of the audience felt it. That had to be the most lukewarm applause for a curtain call I can remember.



My brief stay in New York ended just before the production started, I had really wanted to see it. I’m glad now I didn’t! Its a pity, sounds like a wasted opportunity.

From what you say, Mark, it sounds like it should have been done in a more minimalist style. I’m no theater person – I rarely go (rather shamefully, as I live a short walk from several top class theaters) – but I’ve been intrigued by the possibilities of Noh theater since I was a student and got talked out of going to the pub one night (by a girl I fancied, no other reason), and going to a student production of an obscure William Butler Yeats play. He was fascinated by Noh, and wrote a number of adaptions of ancient Irish legends that were written to be performed in a semi-stylised Noh manner. Although it was the usual pretentious student drama fare, I found it quite fascinating and I always wondered what the possibilities would be of a really top class performance of one of those plays (they are fairly well known, but for whatever reason very rarely performed). I thought that the idea of adapting Throne of Blood this way was inspired. But obviously, the execution wasn’t. A pity.


Mark Mesaros

Precisely. Chong left all the Noh influences at the door. Well, maybe he toyed with empty space (mu and ma) with the lighting and set design.

Kurosawa’s film wears Noh on its sleeve in terms of staging, yet it also has the master’s dynamic editing. Chong didn’t attempt any similar thought process, e.g. “how do I translate the film’s editing and sense of time using stage techniques?” Neither did he attempt to pare it down to a minimalist performance.

I haven’t been to the theater much either (so you know I had hopes for this), so for me it was somewhat instructive in its self-destruction.


Vili Maunula

Thanks for the review, Mark! Back when I read the script, I was wondering how those Kurosawa and Shakespeare references would translate into performance. Not too well, apparently!

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