Stage version of Kōji Wakamatsu film United Red Army coming in 2017

A new stage adaptation of the acclaimed Kōji Wakamatsu film United Red Army (2007) will be produced in Tokyo next year.

Running from March 9th to March 22nd at Space Zatsuyu, the ensemble cast of 20 has been chosen from auditions with 230 actors.

koji wakamatsu rengo sekigun united red army stage adaptation

It is unknown at this point how the film will be adapted but it is likely to omit the prologue, the documentary-style section where Wakamatsu charts the development of the post-Anpo student movement and New Left groups that led to the emergence of Sekigun-ha (Red Army Faction). The bulk of the film is actually set in the small mountain cabin where the military wing of the faction gathers to complete its merger with another, very different radical group, Kakumei Saha (Revolutionary Left), and then in the Asama-sansō lodge in Karuizawa, where several members of the hold a woman hostage for several days in February 1972 while besieged by police and television cameras. As was revealed after the incident ended, the eponymous Rengō Sekigun (United Red Army) that was created out of the two factions was anything but united. The process of the union was highly destructive, leading to the violent deaths of twelve members of the newly formed groupuscule.

Needless to say, with the limited locations and claustrophobic atmosphere, the cautionary tale of Rengō Sekigun is as ripe for theatre as it was for film. The play will be adapted and directed by Keita Shirai (interviewed below), who is known for his directing work with the company Onsen Dragon and also as an actor. Located in Shinjuku Sanchōme, Space Zatsuyu is also not a random choice of venue, since it had links with Wakamatsu.

The production forms part of celebrations marking 80 years since Wakamatsu was born. Wakamatsu, who died in 2012 arguably at the peak of his talents, remains most famous for his large impact on 1960s and 1970s Japanese cinema, especially in partnership with other film-makers such as Masao Adachi.

WILLIAM ANDREWS

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