Sunday, 6 June 2010

A Kabuki To Remember

It is difficult to nitpick on something as foreign as this kabuki play I had just witnessed not long ago tonight. The mixture of refreshing cultural diversity and unorthodoxness is welcoming and, for lack of a better term, fun. I am a witness, along with my faithful companions, to the rich, wondrous history of Japanese art of dance-slash-drama, specifically coined Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura. Despite having difficulty with the distance of the stage and my blurry eyesight, as we were sitting atop near the highest in the opera house watching heads wander along and faces indistinguishable, one cannot deny the intensity of the performing prowess, unknowingly drawn to awe as the beat of the drum rumbles ever so loudly.

So as a foreigner bearing sight to the amazing spectacle to modern adaptations of cultural epic, let heroes be judged and subject to inquisition whether or not this Ebizo Ichikawa XI guy's fame was well worth the ride:

Likes:

Body fluidity: I personally really liked seeing Ebizo's character, the fake Tadanobu and a kitsune, as he performs his role. He was frankly the best performer all in all, no doubt. Every time he tics and twitches, like somebody bearing Tourette's, was very fluid and you will notice the body discipline in which he stood out among the rest, showing why he truly deserves his name title. All the other characters were satisfactorily amazing in their own right, peculiarly the only male as a  female character Shizuka, General Yoshitsune's lover.

Music: The thunderous thumping and clicking of instruments were in perfect tune and perfect timing making it one of the best aspects of the play. Every melody fits categorically on that particular scenario. Not to mention the uniqueness of the rhythm is purely classic Japanese. Act two was notably the part where music is perfectly portrayed wherein the people playing the shamisen are clearly visible on stage.

Humour: There were particular funny moments wherein you, as an audience, would react by impulse because of being, probably unintentionally, menacingly cute. One cannot resist the set of actions put together to make that scene both vivid and entertaining at the same time. 

Fight scenes: Although most of it were open to artistic interpretation, it was performed admirably impressive. The dances and the choreographic body swaying of the protagonist and the supporting cast were sensible and coherent. There is a sense of similar pattern among all the whirling movements and, not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, but it was in a way characteristically uniformed.

Costumes: Retro-Japanese dresses are really nice. Lots of familiar colour to flatter the countenance of each character. Each kimono stands out and tells a different story on its own.

Props: The stage was not as huge as one would expect it to be and so the design of the set and equipments were kept as minimal as possible. Even so, the way they kept the place neat up was evidently very showy of symbols like the cherry trees, leaves, mountain pathways down to the dojo.

Hated:

Pace: Being a foreigner watching and trying to decipher what it is that is going on is painfully difficult if the pace of the plot is too slow. I notice Edgard, who was sitting beside me, nodding to sleep fifteen minutes into the play. Although most people would debate it to be quintessential, I have to differ my opinion in this matter. 

Translator: The guy in the speaker was obnoxiously boring to listen to. Instead of trying to help people understand further most of what is going on around, he will basically aid you to slumber. I loathed every moment of it. There were times when I just want to cringe nonstop. My head was in a world of pain afterwards. I cannot understand much what the characters were saying but I can definitely say his interpretations were late and lacking. There were even moments where he states the obvious making the whole scene laughably anticlimactic.

Plot: I would probably get bashed for this but I really thought it needed a kind of reboot or some sort. I figured it was something that Hans Christian Andersen conjured up. Japanese cliches are, for me, pleasant but the cheesiness can be a bit stretchy, lengthy. 


Overall I really appreciated the whole play. It is something that any person should experience first-hand in their lifetime. It isn't so much as memorably overwhelming but towards the end the appreciation of the lush, cultural nonconformity is satisfying.

The Japanese people have their own uncanny way of showing how much we, as foreigners, have to value the importance of something of your own. It taught me a manner of selfishness that does not necessarily hinder with my values and virtues as a rational human being. I saw artistic brilliance which I could never possess in me. That tells me something of a different matter which I could elaborate further next time. Ebizo Ichikawa XI deserves his praise as a performer, boldly showing how far originality has since long gone.

I would like to thank all the people who made this possible; Aki-sama, for opening the door of possibility to this epic marvel; Marcos-sempai, for being stubbornly himself; Asami-sama, for being so nice and accommodating, always carrying with her her nice, broken smile; and Edgard-sempai, for sitting beside me patiently, and dozing off at the most inopportune climactic part of the play.

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