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Beckett – Yes and Noh January 6, 2006

Posted by unamable in Beckettiana.

Apologies for the resistible pun, which links to Beckett’s influence on contemporary Japanese theatre specifically “The Little Theatre Movement” – shogekijo – which was kick-started by young performers dissatisfied with the existing theatre forms seeking their own forms of expression. It is based on small venues and individuals who take on multiple roles as playwrights, directors, and lead actors. The Beckett connection stems from a student Ando Shin’ya, who was so knocked out by the landmark 1953 Paris performance of “Waiting for Godot” that he then went on to direct the Japanese premiere of Godot sparking a resurgence in avant garde theatre form in Japan.

Noh is Japan’s “most classical” form of drama akin to Greek tragedy. Its roots lie in religious ritual, where the miraculous appearance of old gods, releases the players from the rigours of earthly life into the purity and clarity of the spirit world. The purpose of Noh is neither narrative nor moral, but is simply an attempt to express beauty – the essence of Noh is that true art is felt, not understood.

This may seem a little removed from Beckett’s tramps, dustbins and reel-to-real replays. However the spaces, the purity and clarity are there (although as in Godot are we asked what is where?) In Noh the drama strives to reveal its own essence. In Beckett, all we (we all) face is situation, just situation. The essence never arrives, except that the non-arrival itself, may be the essence. Just as Noh flows between reality and dream, life and afterlife; Beckett challenges dualistic thinking and crosses borders of language, genre, culture, bringing the ultimate questions into the commonplace – and then asking if the questions matter.
To further explore this deep, clear pool (aka murky lagoon) turn up at Tokyo’s Waseda University between 29 September and 1 October for Japan’s first international Beckett Symposium entitled “Borderless Beckett.”



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