February Grand Kabuki, Matinee
ONO NO TOFU AOYAGI SUZURI (Ono no Tofu and the Ambitious Jumping Frog)
Ono no Tofu is famous as one of the greatest calligraphers in the history of Japan and legend has it that he was inspired by the sight of a frog jumping onto a tall willow tree in the rain. This image has made it onto a hanafuda card and was a stock story of pre-war moral education. This month there is a very rare performance of a play that shows Ono no Tofu not only as a great calligrapher, but also as a powerful fighter. After elegant court noble Ono no Tofu (Baigyoku) witnesses this scene, he fights with Tokko no Daroku (Mitsugoro) a red-faced warrior like a sumo wrestler. The two unlikely combatants are evenly matched and this fight is an omen of disturbances in the land and the two joining forces to bring peace.
SUGAWARA DENJU TENARAI KAGAMI (Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy)
-Kurumabiki (The Fight Over the Carriage)-
This short but energetic play is a showcase for the bombastic "aragoto" style of acting. The brothers Umeomaru (Shoroku) and Sakuramaru (Kinnosuke) are retainers of the exiled aristocrat Sugawara Michizane. They try to take revenge on Fujiwara Shihei, the man who falsely accused their lord, but are confronted by their other brother, Matsuomaru (Hashinosuke) who is a retainer of the villain Shihei. The two try to tear apart Shihei's carriage but are stopped by Matsuomaru and the powerful glare of Shihei (Karoku).
TSUMORU KOI YUKI NO SEKI NO TO (The Snowbound Barrier)
A snow-covered barrier decorated by a mysteriously blooming cherry tree provides the background for the larger-than-life story of a traitorous aristocrat disguised as a barrier guard and the beautiful woman, actually a supernatural spirit in disguise, that will defeat him. Kichiemon, Somegoro and Fukusuke star in what is considered to be one of the greatest Kabuki dance-dramas.
KANADEHON CHUSHINGURA (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers)
Act 7: The Ichiriki Teahouse
Chushingura is one of the most popular plays in the theatre and shows a true event when forty-seven masterless samurai avenged the death of their lord by killing his enemy. The seventh act is one of the most popular and shows the leader of the vendetta Yuranosuke as he is hiding his intention to avenge his lord's death by pretending to be only interested in pleasure, but also encountering key figures on his side and the side of the enemy.
Yuranosuke (Koshiro) spends his days and nights in the pleasure quarters of Kyoto in an effort to make their lord's enemy, Moronao, believe he is not planning a vendetta. His acting is so good that even men in his own group believe he has given his life up to pleasure. Moronao is not so easily convinced, though, and has sent spies, including a former retainer of their late lord, Enya Hangan, to find Yuranosuke's true intentions. Okaru (Shibajaku), the wife of one of the retainers is now a courtesan at the Ichiriki Teahouse, unaware that her husband is dead. Okaru's brother Heiemon (Somegoro), a servant in the Hangan household, has also come to the teahouse and the interaction of these characters becomes a matter of life and death and ends with Yuranosuke preparing to lead the vendetta.
Seki-no-to was very good. Kichiemon (2) looked great. Fukusuke (9) looked very beautiful. The two and Somegoro (7) danced very well. Kichiemon said that he likes this play best among the dance-dramas his biological father was good at. Fukusuke said that this is the dance-drama which made him decide to pursue Kabuki career in his youth. He saw Utaemon (5) dance this drama. There is a vague sense in the air that Fukusuke might assume the great Utaemon name in a not distant future because he has played Agemaki in Sukeroku last month, Komachi and Sakura-sprititual this month, and will star as Oiwa in May at Shimbashi. Possibly, he might assume the name in a new (when?) Kabuki-za, just like Utaemon (5) did.
- Tokaiya or Ikari-Tomomori by Shoroku at the National Thetre(2011.07.23)