It is an understatement to say that the production was phenomenal -- beautiful, dramatic, and deeply touching, adopting freely the conventions of Noh, Kabuki and the Bunraku puppet theater. It was noteworthy on four levels. First of all, the narrative structure is a bewildering but clearly articulated nest of boxes, involving several narrators -- the anonymous narrator ("I" in the novel), the author who appears on the stage writing and also interacting with the stage characters, the reader for the radio presentation of the novel, the man-servant Sasuke reminiscing in old age but also when younger between acting the character. Secondly, the complexity is multiplied by having one stage character represented by more than one performer; Sasuke at different stages of life was performed by three actors; and also Shun-kin -- first as a puppet, then by an actress with a mask maneuvered by puppeteers and then only with a makeup and acting on her own, and finally by one of the puppeteers representing her true self laid bare. Thirdly, the simple props of 6-foot poles serving as a garden gate, sliding screen, the instrument samisen, tree branches, the stupa, etc., was effective, setting the visual world revealed only as a partial experience as by a blind, especially with the stage very somber and only spot-illuminated only when appropriate, again suggesting the blind's tightly focused locus of attention. The pole was also used for snapping the floor for sound effect, Kabuki-style, in the scenes of violence, as when Shun-kin strikes Sasuke. Fourth, the production recreated the effect of the subtle aesthetics of the sadomasochistic eroticism that the writer Tanizaki explored and captured in his elegant prose.
All these effects owe largely to the insightful direction of Simon McBurney (of the Complicité). I have known his work from earlier on: The Street of Crocodiles, The Elephant Vanishes, and A Disappearing Number; he has a commanding grasp of the artificial nature of theater. Honjoh Hidetaro contributed the samisen music which he also performed as the music master; the Setagaya Public Theater was the co-producer.