Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Noh Notebook: Manhattan / Okina, New Year 2013

Last year, in Tokyo, I was the lowly Curtain Lifter for the play Manhattan Okina. This year, I was promoted to Actor! In Kimono!  

My first play in Tokyo! Well, ok, it wasn't QUITE in Tokyo. It was in a big old house/museum/theatre in the gorgeous gardens of Sankei-en in Yokohama. There was no-one there when we arrived an hour before the start of our first of three performances, but within half an hour, the place was packed, and stayed packed for the rest of the day.

It's a small play, and the story if you can call it that, is simple: three old men (actually one woman dressed as a Buddhist priest, donning three different masks in turn) see flowers at the moment of their deaths, and are welcomed to heaven by a Flower Spirit as Okina gods so they can protect and guide people who might otherwise be ignored.

You could say the same thing about the original Okina, one of the oldest plays still performed in Japan. It's more a blessing than a noh play. What you remember about it is the joyous drumming and the songs - not the dancing or the story, which you can read before you even start...

...and then completely forget about, and enjoy it just as much.

Coming out of the Kita Noh Theatre on Sunday 6th January, for the first time in six months, after seeing Okina and the sumptuous Arashiyama (another play about flower spirits) I couldn't help but feel festive. I'm still not allowed to take photos, but my pen had clearly decided it didn't care:

It is a Happy New Year.

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