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Narukami Fudo Kitayama Zakura

Narukami Fudo Kitayama Zakura by Ichikawa Ebizo (11).  Very good.

    In the very beginning of the show, Ebizo appeared alone sitting in the theater to explain his five roles using big pictures.  This could be his New Year's message, but is exactly similar to the opening message delivered by Ichikawa Ennosuke (3) at his "The Ten Roles of the Date House"  which I saw by DVD only.  It is well-known that Ebizo  adopted Omodaka-ya style at "Shi-no-kiri" of "Yoshitsune-Senbon-Zakura."  When Ebizo decided to take this style, Aoidayu, a performer of Kabuki Gidayu, considered it as a "beautiful story," and recorded an important mutter of Ennosuke.

10月中旬、はやくも新橋演舞場の終演後の舞台に「河連館」の道具を飾り、(奥)の稽古がございました。その以前に3猿之助丈は11海老蔵丈に稽古をな さったそうですが、客席の3猿之助丈にご挨拶に伺ったところ、「よろしく。(11海老蔵丈が)一生懸命よくやってくれます。…跡継ぎ」とおっしゃいまし た。

Thus, he might do Super-Kabuki in the future.  I believe he will do his way of Super-Kabuki.  Anyway, his five-role performance is similar to Ennnosuke's ten-role performance.  As far as I know, this Shinbashi performance is his first one as chief of the Kabuki show (za-gashira).  It is said that Ebizo did not ask for advice to his father, Danjuro (12) to create the show.  Instead, Ebizo asked Mr. Nakawa Shosuke to be his director.  It is also well-known that Mr. Nakawa collaborated with Ennosuke on various shows which include "The Ten Roles of the Date House" among others.

    In the interview for the show brochure, Ebizo declared that this show was the beginning of his search for Kabuki and that the undertone of his search was "the just rewarded and the unjust punished (Kanzen-choaku)."  And, he went on to say that this is the Aragoto of his Ichikawa family.  I really wish his success.

    Among his roles, I like his Narukami a lot.

【後記080523】

"Aragoto Realism" of Ebizo Ichikawa

1. Introduction

   Mr. Iwao Uemura, a famous Kabuki critic, reviewed Narukami Fudo Kitayama Zakura (Jan. 2008 at Shinbashi Enbujo theater) of Ebizo Ichikawa (11) in the Kabuki Journal Engekikai (March 2008 issue, pp.102-104).  He liked the performance and rightly pointed out to the remarkable similarity in both attitude and method between Ebizo and Ennosuke Ichikawa (3).  Recalling that Ennosuke's performance was called heretic in those days, Mr. Uemura wonders if the heresy in those days  have become orthodox today under the head house of Ichikawa family, whose prince is no one but Ebizo Ichikawa.  Even though the similarity between the two is notable and interesting, the contrast between the two cannot be more different.  Ebizo clearly and literally talks about his ambition about Aragoto (Wild and Courageous Performance), the poster activity of the Ichikawa head house, while Ennnosuke has rarely talked about Aragoto. 

   This short essay tries to capture what Ebizo Ichikawa (11) meant by Aragoto and his work of Kabuki.  I would argue that he is aiming for "Aragoto Realism" to pursue his own journey to Kabuki, which is stimulating but conflictive, even slightly contradictory.  He would certainly absorb and digest all the crucial elements of Ennosuke Ichikawa (3), but eventually will depart to pursue more.  It remains to be seen when.  But, the timing and the magnitude is crucial not only for Ebizo but also for Kabuki itself.  In the meantime, we will see Ebizo acting as "uniting force" in the Kabuki world.  When the other side of his coin by the name of "dissenter" appears on the surface, the new orthodoxy might emerge.  The rest of the essay consists of five segments.  I would use four segments to clarify what I mean by "Aragoto Realism".  The second segment touches on the usual dichotomy between Aragoto and Wagoto.  The third segment takes Ebizo's own view on Narukami Fudo Kitayama Zakura.  The fourth segment puts Ebizo in a wider time perspective.  The fifth segment takes the view of his father, Danjuro Ichikawa (12).  The final segment concludes.

2. Aragoto and Wagoto

   Aragoto (wild and courageous performance) and Wagoto (soft and mellow performance) are usually regarded contrastive and certainly it is.  The Edo Kabuki has Aragoto, while Kamigata Kabuki has Wagoto.  Aragoto represents the new, the wild of the East.  Wagoto represents the old, the cultural of the West.   Osamu Hashimoto, the critic, argued that Aragoto is super-human actions stripping all the human feelings (O-edo-kabuki-wa-konna-mono, pp.70-72).  Wagoto is good at expressing all the human sensibilities, which creates realism.  According to Hashimoto, "Fudo", an Aragoto performance is not realism at all, but a religious play.

  The irony of modern Kabuki and consequently the one of Aragoto is that Tokyo, the renowned Edo, has become the center of Japan and consequently has become more cultural to some extent and more historical.  So has become Aragoto.  What do we do with the details of histories?  How do we take care of them?  Do we "childishly" rely on the same and old Aragoto play?  That is the task faced subsequent Danjuros and Ebizos.  First of all, Danjuro (7) planed to revive Aragoto in defining 18 best performances of Kabuki.  In this way, Aragoto was defined as such in an official way.  Second, Danjuro (9) put realities into the plays.  The realities, in his view, are the historical facts, whether the audience liked or not.  So, he created the new 18 best performances of Kabuki.  He didn't abolish Aragoto, but invented Kagami-jishi using his own daughters.  So, Aragoto was put aside.  It is symbolic that Danjuro (11)  did not perform Shibaraku, the crucial performance of Aragoto, as Danjuro, even though he short-lived as Danjuro. 

   The task of redefining Aragoto was delegated to Danjuro (12), the son of Danjuro (11) and the father of the current Ebizo (11).  Basically, the strategy of Danjuro (11) is the one of embracing.  He has put all the previous performances in one box and tried to maintain them as such.  Ms. Yoko Seki described Danjuro's view as "98% of maintaining traditions and 2% of innovation" (Ebizo-soshite-Danjuro, Bunshunbunko, pp.226-227).  Danjuro noted that Ebizo was not convinced.  The father's strategy is accepting and embracing what he has received.  The son doesn't think so.  So, what does he do?

3. Ebizo's Journey into Kabuki

   In the pamphlet for Narukami Fudo Kitayama Zakura, he declared very bluntly that this is his start for the Kabuki (Interview with Shoko Kodama, p.33).

Q (Kodama): What would do you like to say as total performance?

A (Ebizo): This play is my start of "Kabuki searching journey."  Underling is the spirit of "the just rewarded and the unjust punished (Kanzen-choaku)."  There is no way to live for the evil.  This play is not the kind of touching human sentiments.  Audience might feel betrayed if they should have expected they could cry or laugh.  This is the Aragoto of the head house of Ichikawa family.  There are plays in which you can cry or laugh, but this is Aragoto.

Q: What do you mean by your start of searching Kabuki?

A: Kabuki is great in the sense that the technique of Las Vegas can be adapted into Kabuki seamlessly as Kabuki.  If you trace the Kabuki's history from Edo period, living Kabuki has become classic.  And, modern Kabuki is not only living as classic but also living in modern times.  I know I have to study classic Kabuki more.  But, this play is the start to search for a new Kabuki, because I am now 30 years old.

This is the manifest of Ebizo Ichikawa (11).  Please note that this is the Ebizo who was devastated by Danjuro (12) in Paris.  Ebizo failed his health management at Palais Garnier, Paris, and helped but feel his father's big figure and prestige. The ambition for Aragoto marks Ebizo.  Without Aragoto, we would lose the sight of him.

   In spite of all the similarities in attitude and method, Aragoto divides Ebizo against Ennosuke.  In turn, very clever Ennosuke, still in recovering phase, should be aware of that.  I would argue that Ennosuke would think that Ennnosuke's way of Kabuki would digest Aragoto in the head house of Ichikawa family by Ebizo.  This is the challenge only for Ebizo.  The apparent heir of Ennosuke (3) is Kamejiro Ichikawa (2), but the relationship between the two would be problematic because the two of them don't perform Aragoto.  The turning point is when and how Kamejiro would perform Kurotsuka, the emblem of Ennosuke Ichikawa.  I would argue that "The attitude and method of Ennosuke Ichikawa is realism.  In his book (Enja-no-me), he does not hide his zeal for Wagoto.

4. Ebizo afterwards

   It is known that unlike his father and like his grandfather Ebizo is very sensitive to every details of his play, even perfectionist.  This perfectionism is the mark of Ennosuke Ichikawa.  This way of realism combined with his ambition for wild Aragoto would mark Ebizo in coming years.  I would call his style as "Aragoto realism".  The question is whether perfectionist stance towards every single detail can coexist with Aragoto spirit.  I believe he was experimenting it in Kanamaru-za through Shibaraku performance.

  No one has dared to do Shibaraku in a small theater like Kanamaru-za in modern times.  The sense of every detail is required in a small theater because the lack of it means fatal failure.  So, his Aragoto realism is tested in Kanamazu-za.  I only know that the performance entertained the audience.  We don't know whether the performance thundered the audience. 

5. Father's View

   The dad was skeptical of the son's use of Las Vegas "Illusion" in Narukami Fudo Kitayama Zakura.  In his book on Kabuki (Danjuro-no-Kabuki-Annai, pp.96-97), he thinks that the son could use Jidaimono style instead.  At the same time, the father accepts his son's rebel's style and challenge spirit as it is. It appears that Danjuro (12) is confident that his son will return someday.  I hope he will, but he might not.

   The main factors behind the scenes would be his contemporary rivals: Kikunosuke Onoe (5) and Kamejiro Ichikawa (2).  The both of them, interestingly and deliberately, went abroad with Ebizo.  Danjuro's view would be hard on Ebizo, when Kabuki's popularity declines.  If so, Danjuro needs Ebizo with him, limiting Ebizo's search for his own Kabuki.  Kabuki's popularity depends on Kikunosuke and Kamejiro's performances in the future.  Especially, I would love to see Kamejiro challenge Ebizo with Aragoto in a different way.  His father Danshiro (4) is said to have his own style of Aragoto (Tamotsu Watanabe).  So, the father can train the son here, too.  If that happens, Ebizo's Aragoto realism will be really tested. 

6. Conclusion

   In this short essay, I define Kabuki journey of Ebizo Ichikawa (11) as "Aragoto realism."  Aragoto realism is a style in which he polishes Aragoto in his perfectionist realism.   The danger is that it might turn out to be just another realism for Aragoto plays.  It must be revival and redefinition of Aragoto in modern times.  Next experiment of Ebizo Ichikawa (13) is "Yon-no-kiri" of Yoshitsune-Senbon-Zakura at Kabuki-za in July.  We will see whether Aragoto realism succeeds in fox.  If he just follows Ennnosuke, we have to criticize him saying you have to add Aragoto to it.  Are we ready?

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