I stopped by Victoria Theatre yesterday to meet the cast of Sandaime Richard during their dinner break, and ended up interviewing four of them! So I'll be uploading one interview per day in the run-up to the premiere on Thursday night.
(Mind you, this won't be a premiere per se: the original script is written by acclaimed Japanese playwright Hideki Noda, and it was first staged back in 1990. It's actually something of a forgotten classic even in Japan: Noda's much better known for his later work.)
The first person I chatted with is Seika Kuze, an actress who first gained fame playing male roles in the all-female theatre troupe Takarazuka Revue. Keng Sen quoted her during the kabuki demonstration: "How to be a man? Just feel it, and you’re a man.”
Takarazuka is a rather remarkable institution. It was founded in 1913 in direct imitation of the original kabuki performances, which were all-female, not all-male. Today, it still stages grandiose Broadway-style musicals, sometimes based on traditional Japanese fables and/or manga. It's massively popular—more so than kabuki!
My interview with Seika was rather hasty, because I was worried I was keeping her from her dinner. It was conducted through an interpreter named Miwa.
NYS: How did you start acting?
Miwa: She didn’t really like junior high school and tried to take an exam to go to Takrazuka, which is very difficult. And to enter to Takarazuka school you have to graduate from junior school…
(aside) She’s saying it casually, but it’s really really competitive. Only selected people can get in. It’s not only how you look; you have to be smart and you have to be disciplined.
NYS: Why did you want to join?
Miwa: She was so interested in kabuki and Takarazuka and musicals starring Fushiji Hibuki… She was watching lots of musicals, since she was a child. And she was ready to go into that kind of world.
NYS: What’s the most difficult part of performing in Sandaime Richard?
Miwa: Nothing particularly difficult for herself. She just expresses how she feels. That’s how she understands this show. If I were to say, like the audience who expects to see Richard III, the kind of straight Shakespeare play, or Sandaime Richard as written by Hideki by Noda, if they expect this kind of show and expect to come here to see the show, then they will have a treat [or trick?], because we have lots of visuals and sounds to make it very fantasy.
So for her, it will be very difficult to deliver those things by herself.
NYS: I just want to say that my cousin went to university in Tokyo, and he loved Takarazuka Gekijoo. It was always his dream to bring Takarazuka to Singapore.
Seika: But it’s not Tazarazuka! It's just me!
NYS: You’re the closest thing we’ve got.