Category Archives: Theatre

Shun kin at Barbican (2)

Now the main stage, “Shunkin”. It was just fantastic. Probably I can say one of the best stages I’ve ever seen.

The story is based on a novel called “Shunkin sho”, written by Junichiro Tanizaki. It’s a story of a blind shamisen player “Shunkin” and a man who takes care of her, “Sakuke”. On this stage, story goes with the narrator who is recording the story for “NHK” programme in the current Japan, and the man in the narrated story who is visiting the grave of Shunkin and Sasuke, and the old Sasuke who talks about his memory of Shunkin , and the live Shunkin and the young Sasuke, which means four different time and places overlap each other. The stage setting looked quite simple, each scenes were described by the stage properties the actors used, and the lighting, and the images projected on the back of the stage. It might sound complicated to understand…but actually the four different time-lines smoothly crossed over, it was amazingly clear. Or ever rather, it created extremely beautiful and mysterious imagery of mixed world of abstract and reality.

Another favourite part was the main actress Eri Fukatsu and the “Shunkin doll”. The story starts when Shunkin is a child, but instead of using different actresses, they used “Bunraku” style dolls and Fukatsu controlled them. Her voice was cute but high-handed, and together with the doll’s plain face, it created quite mysterious, unique expression which I can’t explain by words. When Shunkin grew up, the dolls got bigger, and finally Fukatsu became Shunkin…and it was my favourite scene. But maybe some of you are going to see it from now, so I don’t write it here…Anyway, throughout the stage, Fukatsu’s aura was just brilliant.

I was so impressed by the director Simon McBurney who projected this Japanese story beautifully, perfectly, on a stage. In Eri Fukatsu’s interview, she explained that he begun the production by having a workshop with the actors, and they discussed about the each scenes from the original novel. She said it took so long to complete everything, but probably this approach reached to a deeper understanding of the original, Simon McBurney added his creativity to it, and then the outcome turned out as such a beautiful, attractive world. The stage has a lot of wonderful “pictures” in it.

I’m interested in his other production. Only the problem is, if my English is enough to understand serious stories without subtitles…

This is a review in the Guardian.

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Shun kin at Barbican (1) Honjo Hidetaro

Okay, the first writing after the re-launch is about the stage “Shun kin” which was performed at Barbican. And this entry is about its pre-show concert by Hidetaro Honjo. I’m afraid I didn’t know his name…but seems he is such a famous Shamisen player. He started it by learning “Nagauta” and “Minyo”. This time, he played some graceful pieces and sang some “Minyo” too. It was very delicate, beautiful tune. There is a lot of different types of Shamisen, but…for example, the powerful sounds of “Tsugaru-shamisen” always gives me energy. And gentle pieces make me remember the cities like Kyoto or Kamakura, and make me miss Japan so much. I wonder why. And I also wonder why its sound is so calm while they play it with a plectrum. This concert, really made me want to go home. This is his website.

Kabuki@Sadler’s Wells

I went to see Kabuki! Ebi-sama! Actually I was in two minds of going to see it, I didn:t have much money, was too busy, didn’t have any image of “Kitsune Tadanobu” by Ebizo…but I’m so happy I could see it.

They performed three scenes “Fushimi-inari” (aka “Torii-mae”), “Michiyuki-Hatsune-no-Tabi” (aka “Yoshino-yama”), and “Kawatsura-Hogen-Yakata-no-Dan” (aka “Shinokiri”), all from “Yoshitsune Senbon-zakura”. It’s a story of the fox “Tadanobu”. I think it was a good selection…I mean, if it was only one of them the story didn’t make sense for the people who don’t know much about Kabuki. But “Torii-mae” shows really Kabuki-ful gorgeous costume and “aragoto” (A special style of acting which is very exaggerated, dynamic and powerful), “Yoshino-yama” features “Buyo” (Japanese style dance) and “Shinokiri” is full of “Keren” (Tricks and stage devices which usually makes audience surprise), definitely beginners can enjoy it. To be honest, one of the things surprised me the most was Ebi-sama’s aura. I must confess I hadn’t seen any of his stages for long time, as I always prefer Nakamura-ya. Ebi-sama has been good at “aragoto” using his big eyes, but this time also dancing was sharp and awesome too, comical “Kitsune-Tadanobu” acting was fun, “Keren” was amazing too! I think the volume of the audience’s cheer proved that they were really fascinated by Ebi-sama. By the way, when he is acting “handsome” Tadanobu, he looked so sexy, like Nizaemon…was it only me feeling that?

Anyway, I was quite happy with it! But my favourite scene in “Shinokiri” which someone shouts “He’s coming!”, it seems most of the audience weren’t tricked because they didn’t understand the meaning of the shout…lol pity.

But it seems the stage was quite successful. Good! Ahhh I want to go back to Japan…

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Kinshu Tokubetsu Stage “Shin”

I went to see the Kabuki stage called “Shin” performed by Kantaro/Shichinosuke Nakamura! This time a taiko performer, Tetsuei Hayashi, and a shamisen performer, Chikudo Takahashi were on the stage as well. Hayashi is the person who participated to start “Kodo”, which I went to see their performance on the other day, so their drumming today was also amazing and energetic. Takahashi was so good at playing speedy tunes. And of course, Nakamura brothers was fantastic! In their first performance, “Ninin-Wankyu”, I was so surprised that Shichinosuke, who played “Matsuyama-dayu” looked so beautiful. “Matsuyama-dayu” is a phantom in the story, but Shichinosuke well expressed that dreamy mood, and how he moves lookes so feminine, and his proportion is so thin… I remember when I saw his performance last time, he was not that good at all! It was the first time I kept looking at Shichinosuke while Kantaro was on stage too. The last performance was “collaboration”, and it was so cool! Energetic taiko, dynamic shamisen, and Nakamura brothers wearing simple hakama and dancing… The title “Shin” (=”core”) expresses how it looks very well. The whole impression was “modern Japanese”. And this time, Kantaro was so good at performing masculine dance…he is getting really closer to his father recently. I love Nakamura family so much. Now I have favours to Shochiku! 1. Please release a DVD of this stage! I will buy it! 2. Please come to London!

Priscilla

I went to see the musical “Priscilla”. I didn’t know anything about the story, but it was amazing! The costume was so gorgeous, all the scenes was so energetic and powerful! I wish I could understand their jokes more… but still, their dancing was wonderful and I enjoyed it so much. Actually my friend’s friend is playing in this musical. Her name is Kanako Nakano. The scene she speaks was not too long, but her character was so unique and performance was great! It cheered me up as well, looking at a Japanese woman trying so hard in west end. You should check it out too! Priscilla website is here.

Kodo at Southbank centre, London

I went to see a performance by “Kodo” (A group of Japanese traditional drum players). To be honest, I hadn’t seen any proper Japanese drum performance before, and I just went there because it was 50% off for students! But it was amazing. Just amazing. I thought it would be good when I saw the promotion video on their website, but you can never experience the sounds of “big drum” unless you go to see them. It echoes inside your body, rather than on the surface. It was like thunder. Another thing I liked about them was that they were really entertainer. The quality as musician was good, so they can perform serious drum, but also they can do it comically so that audience feel relaxed, and above all, they looked enjoying themselves so much. You can feel thrill, fun, rhythm, and the time just goes by! They will be travelling around Europe, so check it out! Kodo website

Noh at V&A

As I heard that I could see “Noh” (Japanese traditional theatre) at V&A, I went there wearing my kimono. To be honest, when I went to see “Noh” almost 10 years ago, it was in Yasukuni Shrine and the play was “Atsumori” as same as this time, the situation was perfect as there were some cherry blossoms around the stage… but I fell asleep. Sorry. Noh is sometimes a bit too difficult. But this time I watched everything! And it was amazing. I wonder why the “Noh-men” (Mask that actors use) looks so powerful. Wearing a gorgeous kimono, waving a fan and a sword, he looks like someone who is not from the real world, he looks so mysterious but still beautiful. Some audiences who looked getting bored at first even started to lean forward a bit and concentrated on the stage once “Atsumori” appeared. And the last part of the play, suddenly the music stopped and the air fell completely silent. This silent actually talks a lot….it was so touching. I would like to say thanks to my friend who told me about this event!

NINAGAWA Twelfth Night

I went to see Kabuki on the other day. The story was based on Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”. My impression was, unique Kabuki (in a good meaning). There were more British audience than I thought, and the atmosphere was completely like “away”! At first, three children were on the stage and sang western style song with cembalo, and Orsino wearing Japanese style costume said “Shakespeare lines”… it was extremely weird! Some British people were giggling, and I thought the whole play might be crap… But don’t underestimate Kabuki actors! They started to capture audience’s feeling little by little. Well…Kikunosuke acted Viola and her twin brother, Sebastian, by changing his costume quickly (this is traditional skill called Hayagawari). I wonder how many British audience could understand how difficult that “hayagawari” was? He changed into gorgeous princess style kimono so quickly, but no one applauded…I felt so sad. It was such a great performance! I heard Twelfth Night was comedy. I don’t know much about the original, but as the story went, the theatre became filled with laughter. Especially, Kamejiro who acted Maria was really good. His original face is not feminine at all, but somehow he looks so sexy while he is acting a woman… His comical character was really attractive. I thought the reaction of the audience at the theatre was really good, so I read some review on the internet… but most of them were rather critical. Wondering why, I read them, but it seems their opinions were “This is not Shakespeare.” One article says the first “chorus” made her curiosity, but the rest (direction which is typical Kabuki” was not good because it reduces main point of Shakespeare. It seems, what is important for them is “being Shakespeare” rather than “being Kabuki”. That is, I went to see “Kabuki based on Shakespeare’s story”, but they went to see “Shakespeare which uses Kabuki style”. …Well, I can understand even if they don’t understand Kabuki. Anyway I thought the audience were enjoying it. But I also felt that atmosphere of the theatre was important for Kabuki. The situation no one shout at actors during the play, (Some audience shout names of actors at a certain point. Only a few regular audience can do it because it might destroy the rhythm of the play. It’s kind of tradition.) was less exciting. Anyway, I really enjoyed my favourite theatre after for a while!

Carmen

I went to see Carmen last week being invited by my friend. It was the first time I went to Royal Albert Hall, which I always wanted to visit as everyone recommends! It looks beautiful from outside, but you should definitely go inside! It was exactly the same image as I used to imagine “European theatre”. It was amazing. I wish I could seat which looks “place for rich people” (=box seat) one day… It was also the first time I saw Carmen as live performance, I know a lot of its music and I enjoyed it so much. Carmen, attractive sexy girl, was wonderful but I was so moved by Don Jose, who has destroyed his own life for Carmen and push himself into a corner. By the way, I always wonder, opera is such a unrealistic situation which everyone is singing and singing, why does it make me cry so much? Anyway, it was an amazing experience, thanks to my friend! By the way, this month, Kabuki actors called “otowa-ya” will come to Barbican theatre to play Kabuki version of “Twelfth night”. Now I’m feeling so down as I missed the ticket. Well, I was just in two minds, because it’s not “Nakamura-ya (my favourite actors)”, and it’s Shakespeare, not a traditional Kabuki play… and I was also arranging the schedule with my boyfriend. And now it is sold out. ………….I want to see Kabukiiiiiiiiii! Royal Albert Hall Carmen

The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black, which has been played for 19 years at the Fortune Theatre in London. The drama was exported to Japan in 1992, directed by Robin Herford, and have been played some times for years. Hearing that “Japanised” version would be re-imported to the Fortune Theatre as “Japanese Week”, I couldn’t help but buying the tickets without any thoughts. The actors are Takaya Kawakami and Haruhiko Saito. Sounds like it is a horror story…but no any other information. But isn’t it so interesting that a classic drama which was born in England went to Japan and come back to London?

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As I went to see it with my British boyfriend, I booked Dress circle sheets which English subtitles are available. The theatre was very small and almost all of audience were Japanese. I wish I could seen English people’s reaction, but Kamikawa is such a popular actor in Japan, so this is a natural consequence. The story begins by a lawer, Kipps (Saito), starting to read a scenario in a small theatre. He had experienced a horrific time in the past, and to escape from the nightmare, he decided to tell the story to his family. He hired a young actor to teach him how to do “story-telling”, but the actor, being surprised by Kipps’s inability to “act”, suggested that he plays the role of young Kipps, and Kipps plays the other characters. And then their rehearsal starts… Kipps’s horror experience seemed a very orthodox ghost story at first, and didn’t sound scary at all. But as the story goes, the sense of horror increases little by little, and it flooded with terror at the end. Can you imagine the situation you have to stay alone in an isolated old mansion (with a cemetery) in English country side for a few nights? I felt that the sense of horror in England and Japan is similar somehow. There was a basic creepy sensation like “The ring” (Japanese horror film) rather than just using “surprise” or showing “gros”. And in a complicated “play within a play”, along with revealing the background story, the feeling of horror and antipathy grows as well. I think the popularity in Japan is quite reasonable. Anyway, despite the simplicity of the stage and casts, two actors were successfully creating the air of terror. Kamikawa was a bit too “British young man”, but his performance to express horror was outstanding at the last half. On the contrary, Saito silently played old Kipps, who looked so serious, and the other characters, with amazing contrast. The critical point of this type of play should be how much they can evoke audience’s imagination, but they were true professional. You can’t miss any scenes both comical and serious.

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The all script was in Japanese, but their conversations were quite British. The way they act might be very Japanese, but their clothes, setting, direction were quite British as well. I could experience such a unique atmosphere. Well, now I feel like I should go to see the original English version…

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More information is here. The article by The Times is here.