Japan stage director Ninagawa, adapter of Shakespeare, dies at 80

Yukio Ninagawa during a rehearsal at the Saitama Arts Theatre in 2013.
Yukio Ninagawa during a rehearsal at the Saitama Arts Theatre in 2013.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO - Yukio Ninagawa, a world-renowned Japanese stage director known for his adaptations of Shakespeare, died on Thursday at a Tokyo hospital, his theatre and a family member announced. He was 80.

He died of complications from pneumonia, an official at the theatre he led told AFP.

The director had reportedly been hospitalised since December.


Ninagawa's daughter, photographer Mika Ninagawa, mentioned his passing on her blog.

"He was a cool father who fought until the end," she wrote.

Ninagawa debuted as a director in 1969 and gained international fame at the 1985 Edinburgh Festival when he directed a samurai-style Macbeth in which actors performed in Japanese kimono on a stage with a giant Buddhist altar.

He adapted most of Shakespeare's works for the stage - including Romeo And Juliet, Hamlet and Richard III - and launched a project to perform the playwright's entire canon of plays in Saitama prefecture, Ninagawa's native region north of Tokyo.

Ninagawa's productions have been performed regularly overseas since he brought his version of the Greek tragedy Medea by Euripides to Greece and Italy in 1983.

The internationally-acclaimed director became a member of the Shakespeare Globe Council at London's Globe Theatre and in 2002 was awarded the title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE