Some of my friends asked to me to go to see a play together late last month. They said that their English teacher was going to appear on it. I asked “What play is it?” One of them replied, “Romeo and Juliet.”
What? Romeo and Juliet? That famous Shakespeare’s one? Actually I’m not interested in Shakespeare at all. I’ve, of course, read some of his works before. It was, however, when I was a child, and those were ones translated into Japanese.
So I went to see the Romeo and Juliet with some of my friends at the beginning of this month. The play was produced by Maidenagoya and held at the Chikusa Playhouse in Fukiage.
I was surprised at the place because it was a round theater. It was the first time for me to see that kind of theater. It is not big, and probably its capacity is around 200 or something.
A some-two-meter long rectangle-shaped object was set at the center of the room and was spotlighted. Soon after the play began, I understood that the object changes to different things such as a bed, alter, a bench and so on by the scene.
Interestingly, the play of Romeo and Juliet was set at Japan in Meiji era, 1862 to 1912. In the play, Mr. Montague, Romeo’s father, is an American general and he came to Japan to train Japanese army with modern weapons, Mr. Capulet, Juliet’s father, is one of former feudal lords. Yes, Juliet is a Japanese teenager! Friar, my friends’ teacher’s role, is a missionary priest and teaches English to Japanese. Yes, Juliet learns English from him!
That’s why, basically the Capulets speak Japanese, and the Montagues speak English. And Juliet and her nurse usually speak Japanese, but they speak English to Romeo and the priest. The play was English and Japanese.
Sadly, it was really hard to me to understand what they were saying. I hardly could understand their English. They spoke Shakespeare time English such as thou, or thee. I don’t think I could have understood if they had spoken modern English, though…You know, with my English skills…
Sometimes the actors switched the languages, but I couldn’t understand their Japanese, either…English speaking actors speak Japanese in English accent, and some Japanese actors spoke old style Japanese too fast and unclearly to catch even for Japanese… That is, I couldn’t understand the play linguistically. But fortunately, I am not blind and I know the story. So I enjoyed the play.
I think the actors as Romeo and Juliet are quite nice. Juliet doesn’t look like Meiji era Japanese girl at all, though. After the play, one of my friends said, “Ah…I was moved to tears at the last scene though I knew the story and Romeo was not so good-looking…” We laughed at her confession.
Anyway, the play’s tries, for example, the time and the place setting, the language, lighting and sound effects, were interesting to me. The time and the place reminded me of The Madam Butterfly. Probably if the play had been directed by Japanese, it would have become a completely different. It was also interesting for me to know a Western view of Japanese Meiji era through the play.