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For instance, when he engaged the Greek actress Aspassia Papathanassiou to play Jocasta in Oedipus Rex (a bilingual production not seen in the West), a leading Tokyo actor approached her afterwards to ask where she had acquired her mastery of Kabuki.

With Macbeth and then with Medea and The Tempest, British spectators saw a familiar masterpiece refracted through an unrelated aesthetic.

Internationally acclaimed Japanese director, Yukio Ninagawa, has died at a hospital in Tokyo at the age of 80.

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"There are, of course, very great pieces – the ancient Greek tragedies, for example – but they are no match for Hamlet." We are in the Saitama Arts Theatre, his base just north of Tokyo, and Yukio Ninagawa, the internationally acclaimed director, is reflecting on why he keeps returning to this play.

His eighth stab at it (surely a record) had opened the previous night.

The bloody tragedy unfolded like a grievous ritual of loss framed within a giant Buddhist altar to the elegiac swirl of falling cherry blossom and the strains of Fauré's Requiem.

With its ravishing fusion of Japanese and Western codes and traditions, it sealed Ninagawa's reputation as a master magician of inter-cultural theatre.

Sadly, during my short trip, there was no rehearsal for me to sit in on.

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