Yukio Ninagawa

Yukio Ninagawa
Born にながわ ゆきお
October 15, 1935
Kawaguchi, Saitama, Japan
Died May 12, 2016 (aged 80)
Tokyo, Japan
Cause of death Pneumonia
Occupation Theatre director
Film director
Years active 19692016

Yukio Ninagawa (蜷川 幸雄|Ninagawa Yukio, October 15, 1935 May 12, 2016) was a Japanese theatre director, particularly known for his Japanese language productions of Shakespeare plays and Greek tragedies. He directed Hamlet differently eight times.

Although most famous abroad for his touring productions of European classics, Ninagawa also directed works based on contemporary writing from Japan, including the Modern Noh plays of Yukio Mishima (which toured to New York's Lincoln Center in early summer 2005) and several other plays by Japanese dramatists, including Shūji Terayama and Kunio Shimizu. His production of Titus Andronicus was performed in England in June 2006, at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford and the Theatre Royal in Plymouth. In 2007 his company participated in the Barbican International Theatre Event (BITE) series at the Barbican Arts Centre in London, with their production of Coriolanus.


In 1955 Ninagawa first joined theatre company "Seihai" (‘young actors’). In 1967 he left the group and set up his own theatre company, "Gendaijin-Gekijo" (‘modern people's theatre’). He made his debut as a director in 1969 with Shinjo afururu keihakusa (‘genuine frivolity’?). After the disbandment of “Gendaijin-Gekijo” in 1971, in the following year he established a new theatre company called "Sakura-sha" ('cherry blossom company'), which once again resulted in disbandment three years later, 1974.

At the same time, the year 1974 has become the turning point for Ninagawa, when the then Toho theatre producer Tadao Nakane invited him to direct big theatres, and as a result he came to work on a Shakespeare play for the very first time - Romeo and Juliet. Since then, he has become one of the most feted directors in the theatre world. He also often provides interesting topics such as launching the project in 1998 to direct all of Shakespeare's works, or in the year 2000 directing Greeks in which its performance lasted for a total of ten and a half hours.

Beginning in 1983 when he directed Medea, Ninagawa continues to do overseas tours every year, which adds to his high reputation in Europe, United States and Canada. In recent years he has been invited to present a play each year in London, three years in a row – Midsummer Night's Dream in 1996, Shintokumaru (name of the male protagonist) in 1997, and Hamlet in 1998. In addition he has collaborated with the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1999 to 2000 and presented King Lear at London and Stratford-upon-Avon.

Ninagawa has won many awards in Japan, and also he has been awarded honorary doctorates in the UK by the University of Edinburgh (1992) and Plymouth University (2009). He is the father of the acclaimed photographer and film director Mika Ninagawa.

In his theatrical company "Ninagawa Studio (Ninagawa Company)", he continues to produce experimental productions with young group members. In 2006, he founded a new theatrical group for people over 55 years old called "Saitama Gold Theatre" which is based at Saitama Arts Theatre.

This section is a translation of Ninagawa's Japanese official website with additional notes.

Ninagawa died of pneumonia at a hospital in Tokyo on May 12, 2016, aged 80.[1]

Stage direction history

(Premier dates only)

Film direction history

Further reading




  1. Yukio Ninagawa, masterful director of Shakespeare, dies aged 80
  2. Tango at the End of Winter by Shimizu, Barnes, Amber Lane Plays 1991, ISBN 978-1-872868-05-9
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