Architecture Music Theatre

In Praise of Shadows

See the beauty of life from shadows
Architecture Music Theatre
In Praise of Shadows

See the beauty of life from shadows


Junichiro Tanizaki is highly regarded in Japanese literary circles as a great master of aesthetics. Though he claimed to have no specialised knowledge of architecture, he spent tens of thousands of words in his book In Praise of Shadows expounding the meaning of architecture in terms of light and shadow. Is it not the same in theatre? Aren’t we also seized by sensations and desires created by lights and shadows?


According to Junichiro Tanizaki: “The quality that we call beauty often grow from the realities of life. Our ancestors, forced to live in dark rooms, gradually discovered beauty in shadows, and finally even made use of shadows to create beauty.”


Shadows and beauty are everywhere in the theatre. Based on Junichiro Tanizaki’s book In Praise of Shadows, Mathias Woo explores the Beauty of Space in theatre using the creative elements of architecture, music and images, searching for the beauty that is around us in our lives.


This interpretation of beauty is rendered by the original team of performers from Love Comedy on the Rocks (including Chang Yao-Jen, Tsuei Tai-ho and Sunny Sun from Taiwan), featuring music created by Yu Yat-yiu@PMPS, and piano performance by KJ Wong.


1. Shoji
2. Toilet
3. Orient & West
4. Passage of Time
5. Paper
6. Darkness
7. Consuming Darkness
8. Shadowy architecture
9. Light and Shadow
10. Gold
11. The Darkness of the Nō stage
12. The female body
13. Light and darkness of the Orient and the West
14. Darkness shone by lights
15. Too much light
16. Progress

Creative Team

Director, Script & Design Mathias Woo

Music Director Yu Yat-yiu

Styling Man Lim-Chung

Text Arrangement Pia Ho

Performers Chang Yao-Jen, Sunny Sun, Tsuei Tai-hao

Pianist KJ Wong

Lighting Mak Kwok-fai

Sound Frankie Hung

Video Dino+Hayman@Singular


$380, $280, $180


Full-time students

  • Running time approximately 105 minutes with no intermission
  • No latecomers will be admitted, until a suitable break in the performance.
  • Zuni Icosahedron reserves the right to add, withdraw or substitute artists and/ or vary advertised programmes and seating arrangements.


Q: What’s so special about In Praise of Shadows?
A: It is a piece of prose instead of a fiction. It describes in short chapters how the Japanese aesthetics in different areas, such as clothing, dining, space, came about in the course of history. The text is quite special. As you know, Hong Kong people love Japan. We love visiting Japan. We refer to the country as “an authentic way of living”. Many even say that Japan is Hong Konger’s homeland. But how much do we know about Japanese aesthetics? I think everyone interested in Japan should read this prose. It has been translated into English and different Chinese versions. In details, the text discusses how we should evaluate the modernization of Japan 100 years ago. Moving from a so-called “dark-era” to the introduction of electricity, Japan has experienced how light directed the way people live. From dining, clothes, space and even their habits of going to the washroom, interesting changes happened. We hope to illustrate some visual and audio examples in the text on the stage.

Q: How will you present the visual and audio elements described in the text? Can you give us an example?
A: It’s hard to describe. We mainly do it via projection. We have always been taught by Western theories to create space – something defined by light. But this text tells us that darkness creates space. But how do we create a dark space? The stage is a dark space. We explore how we get a hunch, or vaguely identify certain images in such a space, rather than see something concrete. It’s similar to looking at the film instead of the photos developed from it. We tried hard to visualize for our audience different elements in the text. In a way, it is like a concert incorporating language, recitation and other elements.

Q: Have you thought of using Junichiro Tanizaki’s best known text The Tattooer as the theme?
A: I’m more interested in prose than fiction. I’ve no interest in adapting novels, but I’m all for reading. Reading allows plenty of room for imagination which isn’t as available in a theatre production since you cannot “zoom in and zoom out”. It’s not like film and TV where you can play with the angle of the camera to create different visual effects. It is easier to adapt a novel into a film. To me, the theatre is a logical space with its own limitations. How do I turn these limitations into a strength? Perhaps by treating the theatre as a place to absorb and share thoughts.

Q: How would you comment on the writer’s views on toilets?
A: In the past, it was hard to maintain good ventilation indoors. It was sensible for the toilet to be located outdoors, rather than inside a house. It is also quite romantic to be able to see the sky and moon while in the toilet. It must be an interesting experience. Many contemporary Japanese architects would put the toilet outdoors to increase the chances of interaction with nature.

Q: What, to you, is aestheticism?
A: I guess it means something different for everyone. The colours, styles and brands you choose while dressing yourself reflect your aesthetics. For instance, the photographer Ho Fan was often referred to as an aestheticist. Aside of photography, he also made many “aesthetic” films. I think aestheticism refers to a very personal pursuit of beauty, rather than an appeal to the mass. Anything produced for the mass is seldom beautiful per se.

Q: What are your reflections on “beauty”?
A: Beauty is rather intuitive. It’s like how you develop feelings for someone. Everyone has a different standard. For instance, we have now developed a new layer of meaning for the colours black, white and blue within the context of our society. Colours are associated with many different things. Whether or not these colours are beautiful varies with time. In the 80s, people were after bold colours. Now, we seek simple designs. People look at beauty differently at different times. In the Tang Dynasty, people preferred plump girls. Now, we have very skinny models. Aesthetics changes with age. My own standard of beauty has also changed with age and mood. Certain things change with your experience and growth. There was a period when I doted on blue. Recently, I prefer black because it goes well with all colours. This relates closely to my mood, which in turn affects how I look at things.

Q: Why are all actors male this time?
A: They represent the author and tells the story from the author’s point of view.

Q: How would you describe your interaction with the main actors?
A: There are a few Taiwanese actors in the crew. Like us Hong Kongers, they feel a close affinity towards Japanese culture. We went through meetings and workshops to read and share our thoughts on the text. We all agreed it is an important text for the West to understand Japanese culture. Very early on, the text was translated into English. The English translations often read better and easier than the Chinese ones. In the performance, we have translated parts of the text into recitation, songs or drama respectively. We all wanted to share our feelings towards the visual and audio descriptions in the prose. No one is confined to a particular role and character. Of course, there was also our costumes designed by Man Lim-chung. It was a fun interaction.

Railroad Man – Ryuichi Sakamoto

Minuet in G major, BWV Anh. 114 – J. S. Bach

Préludes, Book II No. 5, “Bruyères” – Claude Debussy

Eight Memories In Watercolour, Op.1:7, “Floating Clouds” – Tan Dun

Dance of Flowing Streams – Joyce Wai-chung Tang

Splashes of Colour – Joyce Wai-chung Tang

Rain Tree Sketch II – Toru Takemitsu

Tomorrow’s Song – Ólafur Arnalds

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence – Ryuichi Sakamoto

Clair de lune – Claude Debussy

Prelude, Op.32 No.10 in B minor – Sergei Rachmaninoff

La fille aux cheveux de lin in – Claude Debussy

Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 14 – Sergei Rachmaninoff

Aqua – Ryuichi Sakamoto

Energy Flow – Ryuichi Sakamoto




Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre


Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre

The Team

Based on the book In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizaki
Chinese Translation: Li Shang-lin
English Translation: Thomas J. Harper, Edward G. Seidensticker

Director, Script & Design: Mathias Woo
Music Director: Yu Yat-yiu
Styling: Man Lim-chung
Text Arrangement: Pia Ho
Performers: Chang Yao-jen, Kang Bo-neng, Sunny Sun, Tsuei Tai-hao
Pianist: KJ Wong
Lighting: Mak Kwok-fai
Sound: Frankie Hung
Video and trailer: Dino+Hayman@Singular

Production Manager: Lawrence Lee
Technical and Stage Manager: Chow Chun-yin
Deputy Stage Manager: Zeta Chan
Rehearsal Master: Charmaine Cheng
Audio Assistant: Suen Siu-man
Video Operator: Johnny Sze
Assistant Stage Manager: Chan On-ki
Styling Assistant: Lam Yu-ting
Make-up: Billie Siu
Hair: Chris Ho
Wardrobe Assistant: Bonnie Chan
Stage Assistants: Chim Man-lung, Ray Chan, Wong Sai-tsun, Kwong Ka-chun
Stage Interns: Ip Sheung-hei, Leung Chun-kit Jackson, Wong Ka-man

International Exchange Director: Wong Yuewai
Company Manager (Administration and Finance): Jacky Chan
Company Manager (Programme): Doris Kan
Assistant Artistic Director: Cedric Chan
Senior Programme Manager: Bowie Chow
Public Relations and Publicity: Luka Wong
Programme Manager: Ho Yin-hei
Assistant Programme Manager: Ricky Cheng
Programme and Art Administration Trainees: Megan Hung, Stephy Yeung

Photography: Johnny Au, Bobby Shum
Calligraphy: Mathias Woo
Graphic Design: Ken-tsai Lee, Rachel Chak
Graphic Design Assistant: Coco Cheung
Short Video Editing: Wing Chan, Fion Lee, Wild Lin
English Translation: Mona Chu, Moyung Yuk-lin, Wong Yuewai

Technical Partners