2023 Volume 3 Issue 1 Pages 91-97
The book reviewed in this article surveys the Shakespeare productions of the international theatre director Ninagawa Yukio (1935-2016), and is the first book-length study in English of Ninagawa's achievement. Ninagawa was sometimes criticised for commercialism but not for narcissism, and a central trajectory of this book is how it was frustration with the rhetorical inadequacies of his native language (in particular its lack of “a definite self”) and what he saw as the insipid rationalism of modern Japanese drama that led him towards Shakespeare's “self-fashioning” and directing the plays in his uniquely aesthetic, even postmodern style, culminating in the Sai no Kuni Shakespeare Series of the complete plays (1998-2021). Ninagawa's primary audience therefore, as the author insists, was always the local Japanese, with foreign audiences giving – and in the case of his 1999 bilingual King Lear sometimes withholding – a further stamp of approval for what he was doing. Ninagawa was not a notably cerebral director, but as the author suggests it was surely his expression of the kind of embodied experience defined by Bakhtinian realism together with a Lacanian awareness of language and identity and above all respect for “the third eye” of the spectator that underscored the more superficial aspects of his “Japanese” Shakespeares.