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Dragon King in a contentious sea: Sino–Japanese intercultural theatre in 1989

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 May 2021

Josh Stenberg*
Affiliation:
The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Tove Björk
Affiliation:
Saitama University, Saitama, Japan
*
*Corresponding author. Email: josh.stenberg@sydney.edu.au

Abstract

Interculturalism in theatre, although much critiqued, is an inevitable category for understanding theatre practices and histories. Critical approaches have highlighted the complicity of “hegemonic” Euro-American-led theatre with imperialist structures. Newer critiques tend to focus on encounters in European languages in multicultural cities, and to posit multilateral non-Western collaborations as liberated from colonial power structures. This paper argues that it is necessary to fundamentally rethink interculturalism in theatre by taking seriously the long-standing major theatrical exchanges which do not reference, and are not principally influenced by, Western theatre's sphere. Considering a major example of Sino–Japanese collaboration from 1989, Ryū-Ō (Dragon King), we place it within the genealogy of the two countries’ long-standing theatrical practices of interculturalism. Ryu-O, a kabuki-jingju collaboration, shows that intra-Asian interculturalism has its own genealogy and is neither new nor beholden to Euro-American models, nor necessarily characterized by the idealism easily invested in overtly counter-hegemonic projects. By examining the show's production process, performance and reception, we re-evaluate how interculturalism in theatre is conceived, urging serious engagement with areas of practice historically grounded and fully independent of both “hegemonic” and “new” intercultural theatre tendencies.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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