On the same day as the opening ceremony of the University of Birmingham Day at Waseda, Waseda University President Aiji Tanaka held a roundtable talk with Professor Robin Mason, Pro-Vice Chancellor (International) of the University of Birmingham, and Angus Jackson, Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
The strategic partnership between the two universities started in 2016, and the collaboration has organically expanded to robotics, linguistics, and sports science. According to President Tanaka, one of the unique things about this collaboration is that ‘it came about through the bottom-up approach.’ The Shakespeare researchers in the two universities shared similar motivations and interests, which allowed them to develop their relationship since around 2013.
Professor Robin Mason commented, “The Shakespeare research is an example of where international collaboration can lead you to new perspectives and ways of seeing things. I think interpreting Shakespeare in England is very different from interpreting it in Japan. The mutual learning that comes from seeing the same text through different sets of eyes and understanding those perspectives is a perfect example of why universities collaborate internationally.”
Regarding the collaboration between academics and theatre, Angus Jackson, Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, says that they have a very good relationship with a lot of academics.
“Last year when we performed Shakespeare’s Rome plays, a student put together all of the Julius Caesar scripts of the last decade with annotations. We had that to draw on and that’s a perfect example of a collaboration between RSC and academics.”
They can also draw on academic expertise when doing plays. He cites examples of academics advising them about Roman history or physicists giving input for a play about an atomic bomb.
Professor Robin Mason says, “A real strength of the collaboration is its variety and breadth. Our collaboration is growing year on year with an increasing number of researchers and students moving between the two universities. We need to keep this flow going to get more ideas.”
Aiji Tanaka concluded, “Through this collaboration, I want to enhance the quality of our research. It’s important for students to be exposed to different cultures. The university of Birmingham can bring new perspectives that will improve our research.”
Despite the geographical distance between Japan and the UK, these two universities are making great progress in their relationships.
- The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, with its work bringing people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 7,000 international students from over 150 countries.
- Its Shakespeare Institute is an internationally renowned research institution established in 1951 to push the boundaries of knowledge about Shakespeare studies and Renaissance drama. Based in Stratford-upon-Avon, the Institute is led by Professor Michael Dobson.
- Modelled after England’s 16th-century Fortune Theatre, the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum is Asia’s foremost museum of theatre arts, housing a collection of one million items and an online digital museum. Opened in 1928, it is named after Prof Tsubouchi Shoyo (1859-1935), a pioneer of modern literature and theatre and founder of Waseda’s department of literature. Prof Tsubouchi was a lover of Shakespeare, being the first person to translate all of Shakespeare’s plays into Japanese, an incredible forty volumes. His dedication to Shakespeare was life-long, spending his last two years revising the entire collection. The museum has become part of the history of drama in Japan over the years.