Monday, 26 March 2012

My Noh Notebook

One of the (many) best things about being in Tokyo for me is being able to see as much noh as I want. It's one of the few things you absolutely can't get in London. But two weeks into being back, I hadn't actually been to see noh, live! Some people might say I hadn't done too badly - I'd seen some noh video clips while I was working at the National Noh Theatre, and had lots of fun at both kabuki and kyogen shows - but for me, nothing but a proper afternoon of noh was going to scratch my 'traditional Japanese arts' itch.

Luckily, the last Sunday of every month is 'normal noh day' at the Kita Nohgakudo (the school I belong to, hence my being able to afford tickets) in Meguro. I love going there: the only Kita noh days I've missed since last September were because I was in London.

Noh: the strange awake-asleep atmosphere, the music I don't think I'll ever be able to do justice to describing in words, the fact that no video or photos are allowed in the theatre, AND the dearth of great noh 'action pics' to nick off the internet, make my monthly outings rather difficult to post about! Taihen (oh dear)! What to do?

I got my thinking cap on. When I took it off, 'draw' popped into my head. Seemed as good an idea as any.

So, I decided to resurrect my long dormant schoolgirl drawing hand and start sketching during the performances - pencils are one of the few things they allow you to take in with you. Here are some early ones, not much more than graffiti in my Japanese vocab book, from January's performance of Tsunemasa, (ghost of a famous lute player laments the manner of his death) Mutsura (a poem gives a maple tree eternal life and enightenment) and Tosen (chinese official rescued by his children):

This month, I had a bigger notebook and an itchier hand, but a slight crisis of pens. My red editor's fineliner pen held up ok through Kiyotsune (ghost of famous war hero tells his wife about his torments in warrior hell)

but before the afternoon was over, the red pen ran out, so I had to make do with black biro for Rodaiko ('The Prison Drum' - a wife is imprisoned and driven mad on behalf of her samurai husband, but eventually released by the Lord of Matsuda)

and Kuzu (emperor Tenmu's life is saved by an old couple who later turn out to be gods)

The only annoying thing about noh theatres is that they are never near any shops. Next time, I will (try to) remember to bring some proper pencils!

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