Monday, 21 January 2013

Noh Notebook: Noh, Snow, Tokyo

Even though I'd already seen one performance of Okina at the Kita Noh Theatre, I decided it would be a good idea to go and see another one organised by a different guild. Well, it seemed like a good idea until I looked out of the window on the morning of the show, to a full-blown snowstorm. Later - wet, cold, late, and out of chocolate - I  arrived at the Kanze Noh Theatre after an hour's battle through Tokyo's first all-day snowstorm in 20 years. This play was going to have to be good.

In this theatre, latecomers (which this time included about a quarter of the audience who, like me, had to dig themselves out of snowdrifts to get there) always end up sitting not facing the front of the stage...

...but sitting beside the bridgeway, looking into stage right:

The view was so completely different that it felt like a different play entirely even though the performances varied only subtly. It was gratifying this time to be able to see the arms of Okina's three kotsuzumi players working, from the side:

The next play was Genjo, a story about two famous lute players (one alive, one dead): huge cast (for noh - maybe 20 people) but the actual lute only appeared at the very end. The pillar downstage right separated two of the central characters and made for interesting viewing:

I even had time to look up at the stage roof, decorated for new year and with its corners and layers all much easier to see under the theatre space's real roof, from where I was sitting.

Add to that a brilliant interlude where the Ai Kyogen comes on dressed up - and, unusually for this [in some people's opinion, lower] class of actor, masked - as 'a not-very-important god from a lesser shrine' to tell the story...

...and an utterly mesmerising solo shimai (solo dance in plain kimono done out of the context of the play it comes from to show off technique) of the thrilling final dance in one of my favourite plays, Ama (The Diver). All in all - 'good' and 'worth it' didn't quite cover it.

I skipped home - or tried to - only slipping over a couple of times on three-inch thick sludgy ice in a pair of trainers made for a summertime outing to the park.

Another fine noh day!

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