Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Noh Notes: Backstage at Ginza Nohgakudo

There are a lot worse things to do on a rainy Saturday in Tokyo, in my opinion, than work backstage at a noh theatre. In fact, I'd been looking forward to it all week!

When I arrived in Ginza, soaked but bubbling with excitement, I instantly recognised the little 'musician's door' which opens onto stage left. I'd walked through something like it on my way to perform at the Kita Nohgakudo in October

bottom right bit slides open to the stage...

But what I'd never done was get the chance to look through the actor's door, down the bridgeway to the main stage...

To my delight, this main door was the official location for my afternoon's work: 'curtain lady'. Which meant that, at every entrance and exit I would open the curtain, and close it again. It sounded easy enough - I have plenty of experience opening curtains, I thought.

But, this curtain was different.

 The doorway is about 4 metres high, and the heavy silk curtain (Joseph's Technicolour Dream Coat to the power of I don't know how many) is of the 'lift the whole thing up by twisting it on a massive bamboo rod until its above the height of everyone's heads and then close it so it almost touches the last person in or out' variety - nothing like those more familiar 'pull open on tracks' sort of affairs.

I heaved it up

...and within 10 seconds my arms felt like they'd been dipped in lava.

I was in for an unexpected workout.

One of the main characteristics of noh movement is how slow and deliberate it is. After about a minute and a half, this was how far the cast had got onto the stage

Another minute and a half (my arms now at 'dipped in lava then run over by a tank' stage), and this was how far they'd got...

...but, another what-felt-like-forever, and an excrucatingly controlled curtain let-down later, the pain in my arms was offset by the fact that, as the curtain monitor:

 I got to peek

and peek

and peek again.

I think I might change careers...

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