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Kabuki exposed

Art form's subtleties on show

by Raju Thakrar

‘Kabuki for Everyone” at the National Theatre of Japan in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on March 28 will be a rare opportunity to discover the subtleties of this traditional art form in English. Experienced onnagata (female role) actor Ichimura Manjuro established “Kabuki for Everybody,” and has led these introductory performances that have been given over 20 times in 17 countries worldwide. This month’s performance is the first to be conducted in English in Japan.

Many kabuki plays include an elaborate fight scene that has the hero fending off a countless number of villains. Kabuki actor and tateshi (fight-scene choreographer) Bando Kitsutaro has taken elements from famous fight scenes that will be played out as part of the program. Mie poses that kabuki actors are famous for striking will also be explained, as will the basic differences between male and female roles, and the way that musical instruments are used to represent the weather. This will be followed by traditional music performance in which performers sing and play shamisen.

A swashbuckling, full-length version of “Gojyo-bashi,” a play about the encounter between the Heian Period general Minamoto no Yoshitsune and the warrior-monk Musashibo Benkei — which is one of the most famous duels in Japanese history — will then be performed.

Last on the day’s program is the soothing dance “Fuji Musume,” which is about a beautiful young maiden in love dancing in front of a blossoming wisteria.

“Kabuki for Everyone” runs at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on March 28 at the National Theatre (large theatre), which is a 5-min. walk from Hanzomon subway station on the Hanzomon subway line. Tickets are 5,000 yen (2,500 yen for children, tel. [03] 5420-4520).