Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021 - 16

Figure 20. Rendering for a scene from Kwaidan. | Photo courtesy of Mitsuru Ishii.

(Figure 19). The eyes were so finely constructed that their moving lids produced
crinkles above and bags below when they
opened (Bruckner, 1998). Such attention
to detail mixed with playful yet refined
tricks is one of the unique qualities of
Ishii's design style.

Freedom in Solitude

Figure 21. Scene from Kwaidan. | Photo courtesy of Mitsuru Ishii.

Figure 22. Scene from Kwaidan. | Photo courtesy of Mitsuru Ishii.

16 | THEATRE DESIGN & TECHNOLOGY | SPRING 2021

The apotheosis of Ishii's practice, the
fusion of Western and Japanese aesthetics, came in the form of traditional
puppet theatre, or Bunraku theatre. In
2014, Ishii was invited by the National
Theatre of Japan to design the set and
costumes for a new Bunraku production of Farusunotaifu (不破留寿之太夫).
It was an adaptation of the stories of
Shakespeare's beloved character, Falstaff.
Seiji Tsurusawa, a shamisen master who
is certified as a Living National Treasure,
conceived the idea and composed the
music for the production. The puppeteers were led by Bunraku master Kanjuro Kiritake, who is a progressive force in
this traditional theatre community. Ishii
was delighted to learn during the first
production meeting that Tsurusawa and
Kiritake wished to create a new style of
Bunraku that no one had ever seen.
The script, adapted by a Shakespearean scholar Yoichiro Kawai, had
playfulness and imaginative elements,
such as a character of Shakespeare
drinking in an Edo-era bar. The shamisen
and the Bunraku masters' willingness
to break from the several centuries-old
traditions and the uniqueness of the



Theatre Design & Technology - Spring 2021

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