Born in 1955 in Nagasaki Prefecture in Japan's southern island of Kyushu, Hideki Noda is a playwright, theatre director and actor. In 2008 he was also appointed artistic director of Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space in Ikebukuro, and to be a professor in the Department of Moving Images and Performing Arts at the capital's Tama Art University.
After his family moved from Kyushu to Tokyo when he was age 4, at the age 16 Noda wrote and staged his first play, titled "Ai to Shi o Mitsumete (Gaze into Love and Death)," with his high-school friends. Later, while he was a law student of Tokyo University in 1976, Noda founded his theatre company Yume no Yuminsha (Dreaming Bohemian), which soon became the emblem of the country's vibrant youth-theatre firmament and the leader of a nationwide cultural movement in the early 1980s that came to be known as Sho-gekijo (Small-scaleTheatre Movement).
Meanwhile, after Noda won Japan's most prestigious theatre accolade, the Kishida Drama Award, with "Nokemono Kitarite (Descent of the Brutes)," at age 27, his company's tickets became the hottest of all to get hold of. Then, with this wave of popularity further fueled by Japan’s bubble economy, Yume no Yuminsha broke all kinds of records by drawing 26,000 people to a one-day event at which he staged his version of "The Ring of the Nibelungs" -- presented as a Stonehenge trilogy -- at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium in Tokyo.
Next, after achieving such success at home, Yume no Yuminsha broadened its horizons, and the company was invited to the Edinburgh International Theatre Festival, first in 1987 with “Nokemono Kitarite,"and then in 1990 with “Half Gods(Hanshin)." That year the company was also invited to the first New York International Art Festival, where it presented one of the Stonehenge trilogy, "Suisei no Siegfried (A Messenger from the Comet)."
At this time, though, Noda was also becoming active working with other dramatists and actors outside of Yume no Yuminsha, which led to acclaimed stagings of his radical takes on Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," "Much Ado About Nothing" and "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" in cooperation with Toho, one of Japan's leading production companies.
But just as everything seemed to be soaring, Noda broke up Yume no Yuminsha in 1992 and flew off to London to study theatre for a year on a Monbusho (Culture Ministry) scholarship. Returning in 1993, he founded a new company, named Noda Map, which has played to full houses ever since, both in small and large-scale venues, with him not only writing its plays, but directing them and acting in them as well.
However, despite having been in the forefront of Japanese contemporary drama for so long, since the turn of the millennium Noda has also blossomed in the quite distinct and different fields of opera and Japan's traditional Kabuki theatre.
In fact in 2001, when he directed the Kabuki play "Togitatsu no Utare (Togitatsu’s Revenge)" at the art form's Mecca of the Kabuki-za in Tokyo, his production drew the first-ever standing ovation in the venue's more than 100-year history. Thereafter, at the Kabuki-za in 2003, he directed "Nezumikozo (Mouse Thief)," and is now set to stage his new, original Kabuki version of Verdi’s opera "Aida" there this summer, following his well-received opera debut with "Macbeth" on an imaginative rotating stage at the New National Theatre in Tokyo in 2004.
Of late, however, Noda has also been channelling his overflowing energies into collaboration productions with foreign dramatists. In particular, thanks to his excellent command of English and the close relationship with Britain's theater world that he formed while studying in London for a year, he is now embarking on a career divided between Japan and England. This follows the success of his London commercial debut with his play "Red Demon" at the Young Vic Theatre in 2003, a production that examined the position of an outsider in a tight-knit society and also human relations in general in response to the unknown and unexpected. To emphasize the play's key points, he also directed and acted in Thai and Korean versions of the same work, each quite different and with local casts.
Next, in 2006, Noda continued on his course of international collaboration with "The Bee," a black-humor play of his dealing with a chain of revenge and humans' cruel nature, that he staged with an English team to full houses at the Soho Theatre in London. After garnering tremendous reviews from English theatre critics, Noda then brought "The Bee" back to Tokyo as an imaginative double-program production both in Japanese with Japanese actors and in English with its original English cast. His efforts were rewarded with a virtual monopoly of Japanese theatre awards in 2007.
June 2008, Noda's third production with English actors, "The Diver", opened at the Soho Theatre in London.