Aki Isoda as Lady Macbeth

Japanese artist Aki Isoda will visit Cooltour with Shakespeare monodramas Lady Macbeth and Ophelia. Beside the artistic excellence we are also looking forward to a new discovery for so often conservative Ostrava audience.

Japanese artist Aki Isoda will visit Cooltour with Shakespeare monodramas Lady Macbeth and Ophelia. Beside the artistic excellence we are also looking forward to a new discovery for so often conservative Ostrava audience.

The universality of Shakespeare’s dramas and his understanding of human nature is something well understood by the Japanese actress, Aki Isoda – who has been staging her ‘One Woman Plays’ featuring Shakespeare’s major characters since 1971.

This year will see Aki showcase her two best-known performances – as Lady Macbeth and Ophelia in the UK, the Czech Republic and Poland.  These ‘One Woman Plays’ have been created using Shakespeare’s texts and, by focusing on the major female character’s life within the play, allow the female experience in the drama to be highlighted.

Both performances are rooted in the Japanese dramatic tradition but the difference in costume reflects Aki’s view of the characters.  In Lady Macbeth, Aki performs in western clothing.  She has freedom to move, she is powerful – she represents the strength of this female character.  In Ophelia, however, Aki takes to Japanese traditional dress, the kimono, to show a woman who is restrained and controlled by external elements.

Aki has also brought elements of Japanese staging to both performances – most notably to the performance of Ophelia where, in addition to traditional Japanese shamisen music, elements of the Kabuki theatrical tradition can be found.

These pioneering works have been performed globally.  A broadcast on BBC in 1980 was followed by a three week residency at the Edinburgh Festival (1990) then a performance at the opening of the Globe Theatre in London (1996), in the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, Italy (2002) and in the Japan Cultural Centres in Paris and Rome (2009).   Her originality and passion were recognised in 1991 when she was awarded the ‘Shakespeare in Japan Award’ by the Shakespeare Globe Trust.

In addition to her One Woman Plays, Aki has founded an Institute to teach expressive techniques and her unique system of vocalization and breathing for reading aloud – something particularly in demand with women reading to their children or grandchildren.

Aki’s One Woman Plays provide performances rooted in a non-European theatrical tradition but their exoticness help to remind us of the universality of Shakespeare’s appeal and to provide a fresh perspective on the well-known female roles of Lady Macbeth and Ophelia.