Time Noodles

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20150723

In the West we are used to stand-up comics but in Japan they have sit-down comedy.

In Time Noodles, Chie Kobayashi introduces Radio 4 to the ancient coming story-telling art of Rakugo which dates back to the 18th Century and has changed little over the centuries. The comedian sits on his knees wearing traditional Kimono and performs entertaining dialogues between characters, taking on the different voices, expressions and mannerisms. Time Noodles is the title of a classic Rakugo tale based on two noodle-shop owners and their customers.

The style, structure and rich tradition of Rakugo has been handed down from generation to generation and from master to student - known as Deshi - over a number of years. Traditionally there were no female Rakugo-ka (performers) but now, thanks to Kimie Oshima that's changing fast. She's determined to translate and export this ancient art of laughter to English speaking audiences and poke fun at the stereotypical image of the humourless Japanese. English language Rakugo is inevitably different from the original, she says, but her ultimate goal is to make Rakugo as internationally popular as an art form as sushi is in global cuisine. Will she succeed - or is too much simply lost in translation?

Producer: Ruth Evans

A Ruth Evans production for BBC Radio 4.