Oh yes Sweety,
lovie darling, it really was quite exquisite... today saw my return
to the theatre after a break of a good few years. No, not to act,
but to spectate from the lofty heights of the back row of THE
most famous theatre in Japan, Kabuki-za,
in Ginza, central Tokyo.
performance begins at 11am, and runs right through until approximately
7pm. A prime seat for the entire performance will set you back
about £90 ($130), although we managed to get tickets for
back-row standing spots - a bargain at £5! There is a break
between each act that enables folks like us to just watch an hour
or so of the performance, whilst those who are there for the day
bring o-bento (packed lunches) to help them through the hours.
has a great history, dating back to around the year 1600. It was
created by Okuni, a shrine maiden from the Izumo Shrine. Her performances
in the dry river beds of the ancient capital of Kyoto caused a
sensation and soon their scale increased and a number of rival
companies arose. Early Kabuki was much different from what is
seen today and was comprised mostly of large ensemble dances performed
by women. Most of these women acted as prostitutes offstage and
finally the government banned women from the stage in an effort
to protect public morales.
on women, though, has often been seen as a good move because it
necessitated the importance of skill over beauty and put more
stress on drama than dance, putting Kabuki on the path to become
a dramatic art form.
development was the appearance of "onnagata" female
role specialists, men who played women."
there is not a woman to be seen on stage, and the actors are the
most female men I've ever seen! It is not possible to simply "become"
a Kabuki actor. You must be born into a "Kabuki Family"
- from the age of about three you will be taught the art of your
father and brothers.
couldn't understand a word of what was said, I really enjoyed
it. The timing of the subtle movements of the actors was fantastic.
Perfectly in tune with the twang-twang music (from a Shamisen
- guitar like instrument) and the singing of the musicians. The
musicians take a very active role, at times uttering the words
of the characters as they dance, or shouting cries to emphasise
most startling element of the performance is the audience participation.
At strategic points people will shout out the names of the actors
in support of them. If I hadn't read about this custom before
going in I really would have felt that something was horribly
All in all,
it was a great experience. Certainly different from the last performance
I saw by the Royal Shakespeare Society!