Two classically trained actors—one Japanese, one British—brought their special brand of cross-cultural theatrical experience to Cambodia on Sunday.
In a press conference at the Hotel Inter-Continental, Daniel Foley and Risako Ataka spoke of their much-traveled life as international performers and of the perspective they bring to Asian audiences.
The actors, members of Performance Exchange, will be holding a workshop for actors from the Cambodia National Theater at Chaktomuk Theater this morning and performing “Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits” at the Globe Restaurant tonight. They will give another workshop for actors at the School of Fine Arts on Tuesday morning and cap off their visit with “Madame Butterfly” at the Hotel Inter-Continental on Tuesday evening.
Ataka and Foley are making their first visit to Cambodia, but have performed in most Asian countries as well as Europe and Russia. Their present visit is sponsored by the Phnom Penh Players with support from CfBT Education Services.
Foley spoke of the universal relevance of William Shakespeare’s plays, which he has seen performed in many different languages. Famous and familiar lines are lost in the translation, he said, “But the meaning is more direct.”
“Also, the movement and rhythm of the lines can move through the language barrier,” he added. When he performs, he finds that different audiences are moved by different aspects of the plays but the power of the stories has made Shakespeare a classic in many countries.
Likewise, the story of Madame Butterfly, the Japanese woman who falls in love with and is eventually abandoned by an American sailor, has a universal message.
Ataka, who trained first in modern Japanese theater then went to Russia for further studies, brings a special authenticity to the role. She will wear an antique Japanese kimono during the performance.
For their workshops, Foley said, the aim is to introduce Cambodian theater students and professionals to the exercises in movement, gesture and voice used by actors in European theatrical performance.
“We will do exercises where the performer listens to the quality of the language and applies the movement to it,” Foley said. “We hope the Cambodian performers will find it useful.”