Cultural Centre, Studio Theatre Feb 17-19
Hideki Noda personally doesn’t consider The Bee’s story to be Kafkaesque, and the Japanese theatre star – who co-wrote, directed and starred in it – reckons it’s only his mode of expression that’s made the play look that way. His inspiration to turn Yasutaka Tsutsui’s original short story, Mushiriai (Plucking at Each Other), into a theatre production first arrived when he was reading it in a London workshop he conducted in 2003. “The Iraq War began in that year,” he recalls, “which reminded me of the words ‘chain of revenge’.”
Since its premiere at London’s Soho Theatre in 2006, his very darkly comic play on that subject has been earning plaudits seemingly wherever it travels to – not least for Olivier-winning British actress Kathryn Hunter’s turn as an ordinary Japanese salaryman who returns home one day to find his wife and child taken hostage by a runaway convict (played by Glyn Pritchard) – before sensationally deciding to take grisly revenge on the assailant’s own family. Noda, who’s himself no stranger to playing female parts, also performs in the gender-bending role as the kidnapper’s wife – an inspired approach to maintain our intellectual engagement amid the content of perverse and sexual violence.
“When we express ‘violence’, objectivity tends to be lost,” Noda says of his decision to change around the genders. “Some forms of expression look like an enjoyment of violence in themselves. I suppose when the viewers watch this piece from the beginning, they will approach the ‘revenge with violence’ in a manner such as ‘I could understand it up to this point’. But actually, that is wrong; it’s that way of thinking which leads to some other ideas, like ‘this war is legal’. ‘Violence’ must not be understood.”
That would seem to be an appropriate reminder for the audience of The Bee, which follows the escalating hysteria surrounding the sadistic negotiation between the office worker and the criminal, who gradually resort to dismembering each other’s family members. It is certainly a testament to Noda’s acute sensitivity as a director that he manages to blend comedy and horror this seamlessly. “Mine is never a pleasant type of humour,” he says. “Not only limited to humour, but I like something disturbing, something unsettling and something that lingers in your mind.”
Tickets: 2734 9009; www.urbtix.hk.