Noh Theatre

Review of CHIKUBU-SHIMA By Zenchiku.

National Noh Theatre 5pm 17 April

Having never seen anything like this form of theatre before I was really interested to see this…

Very slow graceful movements. Chanting and most careful precision in the placing of the props which include boats and small pagodas. The masks that some of the performers were wearing are very creepy and the costumes seem very opulent and make strange shapes. For instance the trousers almost become square. All Noh performances Peter said are performed in front of a tree. We sat in the very front row and some of the performers even detach and attach different parts of the costumes mid way through the performance. I found it very different to western theatre as well in that lots of the audience, the ladies, were dressed in Kimono type wear and meticulously smart too. The theatre features a stage with a full size pagoda morphing into the wall, totally different to our theatres. Also the way performers ‘slide’ out from a curtain to the left of the pagoda reminds me of the walkways that I’ve noticed connect lots of the temples and shrines to the other bits of the buildings, maybe living quarters? Also, so far all the performers have been men, again very different to our theatre and most probably more contemporary Japanese theatre. The main ‘characters’ seem young ‘actors’.

Architecturally I find the theatre odd as the outside is very new looking and almost brutalist in its construction and aesthetic. I was expecting the theatre to look very old and traditional. Inside it is a modern pagoda surrounded by stones and similar maybe to the Royal Festival Hall or Southbank Centre but smaller. The theatre is filled too, with very few empty seats.

The flute playing and drumming as well as the hanging starts to reach a climax and then hidden behind a curtain an emperor type person is unveiled. He or she was hidden when they were carried on to the stage earlier in the performance. Minutes after this from the left hand side a tall vivid red haired, rather threatening performer dashes onto the stage. It makes a juxtaposition to the rest of the play to suddenly see forceful and fast movements. The skull type mask he wears is also rather eerie, almost like a witch or dragon? This was the climax as the play reached a sort of crescendo in both action and sounds; ready for the next play.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s