Get in!: The cast of the 10th anniversary performance of 'Rashomon' by Actors Studio. The play will be staged at KLPac from July 12-14.
Is Rashomon’s tale a puzzle without a solution?
STORIES change with the telling. It is only fitting that Actors Studio’s fourth staging of Rashomon – a film famous for how a seemingly simple story can wildly shift with a different storyteller – has again beentransformed in the hands of director Joe Hasham.
Last seen at Istana Budaya in 2004, Rashomon is based on Akira Kurosawa’s award-winning film of the same name. The film is a whodunit from ancient Japan, where four characters tell their versions of how a bandit killed a samurai and assaulted the samurai’s wife. More complex than your typical episode of CSI, the audience has to find a grain of truth from each character as they all have a selfish reason to tweak their stories.
In this staging of the play at KLPac’s Pentas 1, Hasham transports the story from Edo-period Kyoto into gritty 21st century Osaka. To help him transform the woods of Japan into a concrete jungle, Hasham roped in long-time collaborator Paul Loosley as his production designer.
“Joe’s a fisherman, he knows how to tease a fish. He hooked me on the idea of creating a modern Rashomon!” laughs Loosley. He points out how Kurosawa’s Rashomon mostly took place in the woods, but modern Osaka is hardly so au-naturel nowadays.
“I noticed Japanese cities use a lot of vertical signboard advertisements. When they turn on at night, it seems like a sea of neon trees. Cities are forests too,” adds Loosley, who spent a two-year stint in Japan recently. Even the wall which the movie is named after, has been changed from a city’s grand gate to something far less noble.
Not wanting just a fancy new stage, Hasham also modernised the cast. The bandit is now a Yakuza, the samurai a politician, and the woodcutter who finds the samurai’s corpse has been promoted to a cable guy, working on “trees” of electrical poles.
The Yakuza played by Japanese actor Doppo Narita, adds another twist to the play: he will perform entirely in Japanese.
“It works gang busters! Having the Yakuza speak in Japanese adds a real sense of menace to the character, makes him a real piece of work,” enthuses Loosley.
Hasham explains he wanted to add a very strong Japanese element and it didn’t get much better than Narita speaking his native language.
He adds that there would be English surtitles.
Another key element in any theatrical performance is the music, and Hasham has called on another old-hand to put a new spin on things. Music director Bernard Goh, who also worked in a previous staging of Rashomon, says that since the play was set in the now, the music would also be “in the now” and draw inspiration from modern Japanese music.
Although well known as the director of Hands Percussion, Goh says the soundtrack will be played by a live band every night, using classical Japanese instruments and modern instruments.
Actors Studio’s Rashomon plays at Pentas 1, KLPac, Kuala Lumpur on July 12-14 at 8.30pm, with additional matinees on July 13 at 3pm. Tickets are available at www.ilassotickets.com.