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Friday, May 5, 2006


Shakespeare with a smile

The International Theatre Company London (ITCL) returns to Japan this month with its production of Shakespeare's early comedy "The Taming of the Shrew," a politically incorrect ode to the achievement of hierarchical social harmony as portrayed through men's efforts to control the passions of feisty heroine Katherina.

News photo
Robin Armstrong as Petruchio and Natalia Campbell in the role of Katherina in Shakespeare's provocative play "The Taming of the Shrew"

The troupe first came to these shores in 1992 with its original work "Wizard of Jazz," which was honored at the 1990 Munich Biennial Festival with the Evening Star Award. It has made many successful trips to Japan since, delighting audiences across the country and performing at more than 60 universities.

Founded in 1980 and formerly known as the TNT, the ITCL takes as its motto the injunction of Bolshevik-era theatrical director/actor Vsevold Meyerhold: to stage "tragedy with a smile on its lips." Its productions, all written or adapted by co-founders Paul Stebbings and Phil Smith, are renowned as contemporary, illuminating reworkings of the likes of Shakespeare and Dickens.

The ITCL's productions are typically garnished with a very witty and English sense of humor and accompanied by original music. For this particular visit to Tokyo and Kyoto, the score, composed by John Kenny, will be performed live on harpsichord, clarinet and percussion.

Commenting on this play's sexist and cruelly misogynistic bent, Stebbings said, "The play is what it is. It expresses an idea of a society where men and women are not equal, and where order is achieved through hierarchy."

"Shakespeare was writing about a very different society from today, but he explores universal issues, so that even if we disagree with this position, it allows us to examine our own attitude to the role of men and women today."

"The Taming of the Shrew" will be performed May 18, at 6:30 p.m. at the Musashino Kokaido, a 3-minute walk from Kichijoji station on the JR Chuo or Inokashira lines. It then runs May 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Kyoto Kyoiku Bunka Center, a 5-minute walk from Shijo Kawaramachi Station on the Hankyu Dentetsu Line.

For more details, call ITCL Japan at (03) 5469-2841 or visit www.stageplay.jp

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