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Japan’s kabuki harnesses the Force for Star Wars performance

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From a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars is coming to a traditional Japanese kabuki theatre stage for a one-off performance in Tokyo celebrating the blockbuster cinema series.

Kabuki actors will swap their samurai swords for lightsabers to perform the adaptation of the wildly popular series later this month, ahead the release of the final film in the main Star Wars saga.

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Ichikawa Ebizo, among the biggest names in Japan’s heavily choreographed kabuki world, will star as Kylo Ren, the son of Han Solo, who is drawn to the dark side.

The performance on November 28 at an undisclosed location in Tokyo is shrouded in secrecy, but will feature key moments from recent installments of the series, the Japanese arm of Disney said in a statement.

Disney said it plans to invite at least 25 couples to the performance, which will also be live-streamed.

“‘Star Wars kabuki’ will depict the sagas of love and loss for the Skywalker family that stretch for more than 40 years,” Ichikawa said in the statement.

“It will be a show that both Star Wars fans and kabuki fans will enjoy.”

The new Star Wars film, which hits movie theaters from December 20, will be the final episode of the Star Wars epic that began four decades ago.

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The multi-generational saga of the Skywalker clan is a global phenomenon, with Japan no exception, particularly among those who remember the original trilogy released in the 1970s and 1980s.

And Star Wars is said to have been influenced throughout the years by Japan.

Director J.J. Abrams has said Ren’s fractured facemask was inspired by the Japanese art of kintsugi, where cracks are repaired with silver or gold and highlighted rather than hidden.

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The production comes as kabuki actively adopts new themes to appeal to a wider audience, adapting popular comic books and other works in a bid to draw in new viewers.

The artform with its set pieces and historical weight is often associated with kimono-clad elderly patrons, and adaptations of popular comic books like “One Piece” and “Naruto” are an attempt to shake off a stuffy image.

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It has even embraced virtual reality, with kabuki star Nakamura Shido performing alongside giant screens featuring virtual reality character Hatsune Miku.


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New Zealand restricts entry for Kiwis escaping coronavirus

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New Zealand began restricting the return of its own nationals Tuesday as the country faces an accelerating influx of citizens fleeing coronavirus outbreaks overseas and limited quarantine facilities.

National carrier Air New Zealand put a three-week freeze on new bookings and the government is in talks with other airlines to limit capacity, officials said.

New Zealand has gone 67 days without any cases of coronavirus in the community and its 22 active cases are all in managed quarantine facilities for New Zealanders flocking home from worsening epidemics elsewhere.

There are nearly 6,000 people currently undergoing the mandatory 14-day quarantine in the facilities and another 3,500 are due to arrive this week.

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‘Do your part’: WWII film ‘Greyhound’ teaches virus lesson, says Hanks

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Tom Hanks is "heartbroken" that his World War II thriller must skip the big screen due to the pandemic -- but hopes it can still teach audiences at home a thing or two about acting decently in a global crisis.

"Greyhound," out on Apple TV+ Friday, was written by and stars Hanks as a rookie captain escorting a convoy of Allied ships as they cross the freezing North Atlantic, hounded by Nazi U-boats.

The movie follows a destroyer's terrified young crew crossing the treacherous ocean beyond the range of air cover, bound together in life-and-death responsibility for protecting the fleet and each other.

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Johnny Depp libel trial set to start in London

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A libel trial was due to begin on Tuesday between Hollywood actor Johnny Depp and a British tabloid newspaper over claims that he was violent to his former wife, Amber Heard.

Depp, 57, is suing News Group Newspapers (NGN), publisher of The Sun, and its executive editor Dan Wootton for an April 2018 article which referred to him as a "wife beater".

The "Pirates of the Caribbean" star strenuously denies the accusation.

The case, which was delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak, will be heard over 15 days at the High Court in London.

The couple settled a divorce out of court in 2017. She donated a settlement of $7 million (£5.6 million, 6.2 million euros) to charity.

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