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Friday, July 25, 2008

Bungaku-za to stage 'Tom's Midnight Garden'

School holidays are here, and as part of the International Family Festival that it has staged annually since 1993, the Nissay Theatre in Hibiya, Tokyo, this year includes in its program a rare production of "Tom's Midnight Garden" by the long-established Bungaku-za theater company.

News photo
Magic hour: Cast members pose on the set of "Tom's Midnight Garden," being performed by the Bungaku-za theater company from Aug. 9 to 11 at the Nissay Theatre in Hibiya, Tokyo. COURTESY OF BUNGAKU-ZA

Winner in 1958 of Britain's top children's book award, the Carnegie Medal, this story by Philippa Pearce (1920-2006) tells how one summer a young boy named Tom had to stay at the house of a tiresome aunt because his younger brother had measles.

Bored without any playmates, one night Tom went out into the garden, where he met a mysterious, lonely girl called Hatty, who he started to play with every night. But Tom realized that Hatty was getting older rapidly, and finally became almost an old lady. Then he discovered a secret about his playmate.

The Nissay Theatre's annual IFF aims to give children — who generally in Japan do not have drama on their school curriculum — the chance to experience actual live theater tailor-made for them in the same way that so many movies and video games are.

As well as this regular stage production, the festival — which in the past has featured contemporary drama, kyogen, puppet theater, children's theaters from abroad, U.S. musicals, gamelan musical dance from Indonesia and Chinese traditional theater — this year also includes kabuki and ballet programs in its inspiring lineup. As a special bonus, too, four children who made it through competitive auditions will be taking roles alongside the renowned Bungaku-za team in the production of "Tom."

"Tom's Midnight Garden" runs Aug. 9 to 11 at the Nissay Theatre, a 1-minute walk from Hibiya Station on the Hibiya, Chiyoda and Toei-Mita subway lines. Tickets are ¥4,000 to ¥6,000 (half price for under-15s). For more details, call the theatre at (03) 3503-3111 or visit www.nissaytheatre.or.jp I n its cozy studio in Tawaramachi, Taito Ward, Tokyo, En Theater Company is currently staging a particularly powerful production of the autobiographical "Dance of Death" by the great Swedish playwright August Strindberg, which centers on an intense struggle between a husband and wife.

Here, En's main actor, Isao Hashizume, shows his remarkable talent in his role as the monstrous Edgar, who he invests with a tremendous charismatic presence, while Masako Ito's detailed stage set should not be missed either.

"Dance of Death (Shi no Butoh)" runs until July 31 at The Stage En, a 3-minute walk from Tawaramachi Station on the Ginza subway line. Tickets are ¥6,500 (or ¥11,000 for a pair).

For more details, call En Theater Company at (03) 5828-0654 or visit www.en21.co.jp

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