Madame Mishima is a solo play dedicated to the great Japanese writer Yukio Mishima whose complex and controversial – at least to those who know little of his life and work – figure has largely remained a mystery to this day, even to his researchers, regardless of the absolute factual clarity of his life. Outrageously famous is the seppuku with which he ended his life, and which many still see as a mere farce or an eccentric whim of an artist and socialite spoilt by fame. To others, though – and this is the fundamental idea of Madame Mishima – the writer has been destined for a heroic death for which he began a remarkable preparation from his earliest years. The play tries to examine the secret mechanism which pushes Mishima toward a preordained end, but one which cannot be seen as mere fate or destiny, as it is driven entirely by free will. Hence, the play is biographical but not in the sense that it follows the actual facts and events of the writer’s life. Instead, it seeks to approach his spirit through the inevitable and extraordinarily powerful, in Mishima’s case, play of the Eros and Thanatos.
The character in the play, Madame Mishima, is a man performing as a woman, much in the spirit (though not necessarily in the style) of the traditional Japanese Kabuki theatre. The story unravels as a dialogue between Madame Mishima and an imaginary police detective visiting her. The place is a prison cell where Madame Mishima has been incarcerated on the charge that while acting as his kaishaku-nin, she has in fact killed Mishima who, due to faint-heartedness, had only scratched himself as the forensic examiner’s conclusion claims. However, Madame Mishima, being the writer’s mistress for many years as well as his female alter ego of a kind, offers the detective her own version according to which Mishima, born to be a hero, had not just lived a hero’s life, but had also acted heroically in the face of death. But since the detective refuses to believe this story, insisting that the defendant signs the confession he himself has fabricated for her, Madame Mishima finally agrees to be examined by a psychiatrist and certified as mentally incapacitated, thus outwitting the detective and escaping a death sentence. In the mean time, the young detective is reprimanded by his superiors and removed from the case in utter disgrace. As a result of this, as well as Madame Mishima’s persistent suggestions, during the last visit to her cell he performs a seppuku. In the final scene, Madame Mishima, back to her male self again, puts on a white formal military uniform – as an allusion to Mishima himself and the circumstances of his seppuku – leaves the prison to be taken to a mental hospital.