Le Théâtre du Soleil is a leading French avant-garde company that has had an enthusiastic Japanese following ever since its 2001 debut here at the New National Theatre, Tokyo, with its bunraku-inspired “Tambours sur la digue.”
Founded in Paris in 1964 by the now 84-year-old Ariane Mnouchkine as a collective of fellow students at the L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq, Le Théâtre du Soleil from the start adopted a stylized Asian approach to the performing arts in order to break away from TV-style Western naturalism.
Portrait of Ariane Mnouchkine
In 1963, when Mnouchkine spent time in Japan prior to the following year’s Tokyo Olympics, she sought out various theatre forms including kabuki, noh, bunraku (traditional puppet theatre) and taishu engeki (entertainment theatre for the masses) that she went on to incorporate into her own works.
Clearly that love for Japan continues because Le Théâtre du Soleil was scheduled to stage its world premiere of “The Golden Island” in Tokyo in 2021 until the pandemic stopped that.
Now, though, after a hiatus of 22 years the company is finally coming here with that work which it ended up staging for the first time at its La Cartoucherie base in a former munitions factory in eastern Paris.
“The Golden Island (L’ Ile d’Or” / “Kanemu-Jima)” is a dream story set on fictional Kanemu Island in present-day Japan, where residents who want to revive the town with an international theatre festival are battling a group planning a large-scale casino resort development. The conflict is thrown into increasing chaos involving the mass media, a malicious lawyer and various kinds of art creators.
In this magnificent three-hour play, audiences will recognise many Japanese-style visuals and sketches, costumes and sets — and also be reminded of social conflicts from here and there during their own lives.
“The Golden Island (L’ Ile d’Or” / “Kanemu-Jima)” runs Oct. 20–26 at Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre in Ikebukuro and Nov. 4 and 5 at ROHM Theatre Kyoto in Kyoto City.
The play is performed in French with Japanese subtitles. For more details, visit http://www.geigeki.jp/performance/theater336/ or https://rohmtheatrekyoto.jp/en/event/107282/.