Yukio Ninagawa: “Troilus and Cressida” (DVD & screencaps)

Ninagawa x Shakespeare X

In August 2012, I was fortunate enough to be able to see Yukio Ninagawa’s all-male production of William Shakespeare’s “Troilus and Cressida” in Saitama, Japan. The post I wrote afterwards, which contains more information as well as my thoughts about the production, has baffled me by becoming one of the most popular posts on this blog. I was going to post about it again anyway, but now I feel slightly more justified in doing so!

The DVD: Ninagawa’s “Troilus and Cressida” was released on region-free DVD in 2013 as part of the box set Ninagawa x Shakespeare X (“X” because this is the tenth in the series). The set comes with three DVDs: one for “Troilus and Cressida” (172 minutes), one for a production of “Cymbeline” (188 minutes), and one with bonus features, most notably twenty-one minutes of footage from behind the scenes of “Troilus.” None of these DVDs include subtitles of any kind, although Shakespeare’s text can be used to figure out what’s happening in “Troilus”; I don’t think there are any changes large enough that they would throw someone off. (I haven’t watched “Cymbeline” yet, but I’m looking forward to it!)

Watch: Troilus, Cressida, Pandarus and Diomedes in clips from V.ii and V.iv (please note that the footage on the DVD is higher quality and better edited), the cast at a press conference

Buy it at: Amazon.co.jp, CDJapan

Screencaps: So I originally meant to only screencap the things I wanted to show you when I wrote my previous post, but of course I went a little overboard. Read on for thirty-nine screencaps (and four photos)!

Troilus (Yusuke Yamamoto) and Pandarus (Takehiko Ono) in the play’s first scene, just after Troilus has emerged from his hiding place among the sunflowers. I should probably note that I am writing the actors’ given names before their family names so that they match the other names on this blog, although the order in Japanese is the reverse (e.g. Yamamoto Yusuke).

Paris (Yuki Sato) returning from battle with his bow. He’s walking through the audience to the stage; there’s a LOT of walking up and down the aisles in this production, which is really neat when you see it live but is less neat on DVD – the audio quality seriously drops whenever anyone delivers lines there.

Troilus returning from battle.

Pandarus and Cressida (Yuki Tsukikawa) talking about Troilus.

The first scene in the Greek camp. Ignoring the men carrying the banners, from left to right we have Diomedes (Shun Shioya), Ulysses (Yasuyoshi Hara), Nestor (Ikkyu Juku), Agamemnon (Takashi Hirota) and Menelaus (Yutaka Suzuki).

Agamemnon and Aeneas (Hiroyuki Mamiya). I have no complaints about Mamiya’s Aeneas (not that he has all that much to do) except that he looks like he’s a generation older than Hector and his brothers, which is an unusual choice.

Nestor and Ulysses plotting. To me Nestor looks like he’s a generation younger than usual, so I suppose all the ages even out in the end.

Achilles (Tomoya Hoshi) and Patroclus (Seiya Osada) in their usual pose.

Patroclus adjusts Achilles’ necklace as Thersites (Taka Takao, on the left) and Ajax (Kei Hosogai, on the right) hurl insults at each other.

This is a less than flattering picture with which to introduce Cassandra (Shige Uchida), but I really wanted to show the make-up on her legs and this is the only moment on the DVD where it’s clearly visible.

Cassandra with Priam (Masafumi Senoo, who also played Antenor) behind her.

I make no apologies for the amount of Cassandra screencaps in this post because Uchida’s portrayal is far and away my favourite thing in this production. I was shocked when I remembered that Cassandra is only in two scenes; Uchida steals both of them so completely that it feels like more.

From left to right: Troilus, Helenus (Takeshi Inomo), Priam, Cassandra, Hector (Eiji Yokota), and Paris. The removal of the sunflowers makes the palace of Troy look like a very bleak place.

Troilus, Hector and Paris.

Thersites, bruised after Ajax beat him up in his previous scene!

Helen (Akinori Suzuki) and Paris. I still don’t love how this scene is staged, but while screencapping I belatedly noticed that Helen is almost a head taller than Paris! I’d imagine it’s unusual to decide that the most beautiful woman in the world should also be a tall woman. Having read many blog entries written by tall women who feel self-conscious about their height, I approve of this.

My favourite moment from III.iii, the scene where everyone ignores Achilles.

Achilles: “Good weather today.”
Ajax: “HA?!?”

Seriously, how great is that ridiculous pose. New favourite Ajax!!

Skipping ahead to IV.v – I mentioned before that I’m less than impressed by Tsukikawa’s portrayal of Cressida, and the scene where she first arrives in the Greek camp is a great example of why. She has zero reaction to the Greek generals kissing her. She stays in the same position, with the same facial expression, until she leaves the scene. When she has lines, they’re delivered in a monotone. You might argue that this is meant to show some sort of emotional shutting down after being forced to leave Troy except that she’s like this in every scene. I have no idea why it was decided that one of the play’s title characters should be such a non-entity, but it really frustrates me.

IV.v continued:

Hector: “Stand fair, I pray thee: let me look on thee.”
Achilles: “Behold thy fill.”
Hector: “Nay, I have done already.”

This screencap is Achilles’ shocked reaction when Hector totally interrupts him with that second line (which gets a laugh). Also note that Achilles and Patroclus are now wearing the same blue capes as the other Greek characters.

By the way, I lied when I said that Thersites’ lines in V.i – the ones that begin with “Why, his masculine whore” – were cut. I’m not sure how I missed them, because he even turns them into a weird little song and dance. At this point I realized I should probably just accept that “Troilus and Cressida” is not the place to look for a progressive portrayal of homosexuality.

Cressida taking Troilus’s sleeve back from Diomedes.

Cressida finally shows a bit of emotion at the end of her final scene …

… but is immediately and completely out-acted by Troilus.

Andromache (Yoshiaki Yamashita) in her only scene. Instead of the tender scenes between Hector and Andromache that are among the most famous parts of the Iliad, Shakespeare and Ninagawa give us a scene where Hector refuses to listen to Andromache, never stands less than two feet away from her, and repeatedly shouts at her to leave. This is pretty characteristic of the way that “Troilus and Cressida” takes the story of the Trojan War and strips away all its heroic trappings.

I would now like to present the amazing facial expressions of Cassandra.

Hector, Troilus and Priam react as Cassandra cries, “Hector’s dead!”

Looking at Hector for the last time.

Can Shige Uchida please play Cassandra in everything from now on? Seriously, let’s get a petition going, I think we can make this happen.

For the battle at the end, the sunflowers are back but the back wall is gone. These very simple, often minimalist and somewhat bizarre sets seem to be part of Ninagawa’s style. Sometimes they work for me but I’m not sure they do in this case. Seriously – what’s up with the sunflowers? And why are there so many??

Pandarus looks sicker almost every time we see him, until this is what he looks like when he bequeaths us his diseases.

Troilus and Cressida take their bows.

As mentioned above, the DVD set also includes twenty-one minutes of behind-the-scenes footage. I found it to be a short but surprisingly enjoyable watch; footage from photo shoots and rehearsals is broken up with comments from Ninagawa, the cast, and even the translator. Occasionally, an actor’s humourous comment will be written on the screen, as they often are in Japanese variety shows. For example:

In this clip from a rehearsal, Eiji Yokota (Hector) is asking the cameraperson to make sure to film the fact that he, the diligent veteran actor, is the only one wearing his armour.

Here Shige Uchida (Cassandra) talks about how he’s been getting positive reviews even though he’s only in two scenes, so he figures he must be doing something right.

There’s also footage of the sort of hijinks you can probably expect when you have a bunch of young men sharing a dressing room, such as this clip of everyone laughing at Yokota’s failed attempt to bend an exercise bar.

Also among the extras is the program. It doesn’t have all of the pages of the hard copy programs, but it does have most. Above is a picture of the menu from which you can access the different pages.

Photos: As a bonus, please enjoy a selection of my terrible photography!

As a contrast to the above, here is the cover of the program I bought at the theatre. It contains the expected information, long interviews with the principal cast, short interviews with the rest of the cast, and a lot of photographs. I really like the cover design, although the odd square shape of the thing means I have yet to find a really good place for it in my bookcase.

… I also bought a Troilus and Cressida towel, because I was so shocked that it existed.

A photo I took as I approached the Saitama Arts Theater.

A closer look at the large poster on the outside of the theatre. The actors on the poster are those for (front row) Troilus, Paris, Diomedes, Cressida, and (back row) Patroclus, Ajax, and Cassandra. A bit of an odd assortment that I suspect has to do more with the actors’ popularity than with the roles they played. Perhaps related to this is that included in the collection of flyers that audience members were handed as they entered the theatre was an advertisement for the Kei Hosogai (Ajax) fan club.

After the show, I discovered that the street that leads from the theatre to the train station is lined with the handprints and autographs of those who have directed plays in the theatre’s Shakespeare series. This is Ninagawa’s. If you feel so inclined, you can watch a short video about these handprints courtesy of Saitama Prefecture’s official YouTube channel.

And with that, I have perhaps said all I have to say about this particular production. If you want to know more about it or the DVD, or if you desperately want to see a screencap from a certain scene, just leave a comment to let me know!

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