Punishment by Roses

Punishment by Roses

A multimedia event inspired by the life of Japanese writer and activist Yukio Mishima with two performers, four musicians and video

In 1970, Mishima astounded the world when, at 45, he committed ritual suicide, hara-kiri, by disembowelment. Horrifying as his death was, it represented the almost inevitable climax for Mishima, whose life had been a relentless search for convulsive beauty. From childhood poetic fantasies, St Sebastian’s martyrdom, a spectral Kabuki actor and Wagnerian ecstasy, Mishima’s banquet was adorned with an army of muscular roses.

Opening with the sound of fluttering birds’ wings, the score – written for oboe, cello, piano and percussion – also included fragments from Wagner’s ‘Liebestod’ as it had formed the soundtrack for Mishima’s own re-enactment of hara-kiri in his 1996 film ‘Patriotism’.

Music: Charlie Barber

Video: Mike Stubbs

Performers: David Hughes, Glenn Davidson

Musicians: Steve Watts (oboe), William Bruce (cello), Lucy Wilson (piano), Simon Limbrick (percussion)

Technical support and lighting design: Dave Hutton

Produced by the New Arts Consort



20.08.81CARDIFFChapter Theatre
21.08.81CARDIFFChapter Theatre
22.08.81CARDIFFChapter Theatre
25.08.81EDINBURGHFestival Fringe, University Chaplaincy Centre
26.08.81EDINBURGHFestival Fringe, University Chaplaincy Centre
27.08.81EDINBURGHFestival Fringe, University Chaplaincy Centre
28.08.81EDINBURGHFestival Fringe, University Chaplaincy Centre
29.08.81EDINBURGHFestival Fringe, University Chaplaincy Centre
30.08.81EDINBURGHFestival Fringe, University Chaplaincy Centre


“Using mime and music techniques which are largely a mixture of Noh and its more plebby off-shoot, Kabuki, the performance progresses through the phases of Mishima’s pilgrimage to the ultimate in Samurai glory – the apparent possession lay some higher power goading him to write his life away, to be stoic, masochistic and homosexual sybarite all at once, and to sacrifice his individuality in death for a Fatherland that no longer believes in its Divine Imperial destiny.

The music – played on percussion, piano, oboe and cello, and sometimes using piped bits of Wagner and others – heightens the action sometimes to a terrifying frenzy…a superb piece of work.” The Western Mail, 21 August 1981

“Described as a ‘musical theatre spectacle’ and subtitled A paean for Yukio Mishima this production stunningly evokes the life of the Japanese novelist. The haunting music is written by Charlie Barber for percussion, oboe, cello and piano, and its rich texture underscores the dance-mime of Dafydd Hughes and Glenn Davidson. Throughout the performance a simultaneous video recording by Mike Stubbs provides counterpoint to the action.” Robbie Dinwoodie, The Scotsman, 29 August 1981



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