Matinee (from 11:00 AM)
NARUKAMI 【The Thunder God】
One of the oldest plays in the kabuki repertory, “Narukami” combines the bombastic aragoto acting style with the universal theme of human frailty and desire depicted with the earthy comedy of early kabuki.
The imperial court asks the priest Narukami to change the sex of the baby of the Emperor who is to be born from female to male on condition that he grants Narukami to build a platform to grant religious precepts to his pupils. The baby is born as a boy as the Emperor hoped and becomes later Emperor Yozei, but the imperial court does not keep its promise. Angry at the imperial court, the priest Narukami imprisons the rain god, bringing a severe drought.
Princess Taema comes as a spy to seduce Narukami and break his power. When Narukami realizes that he has been betrayed, his anger transforms him into a thunder god. This scene is shown with the bravura movements of aragoto acting.
MABUTA NO HAHA 【The Remembered Mother】
First performed in 1931, “MABUTA NO HAHA” is a play by Hasegawa Shin, who specialized in gritty realistic representations of the lower classes in the Edo period.
Chutaro is a rough gangster in late Edo period. His mother left him when he was 5 years old and he has never seen her ever since. He lost his father at the age of 12. So he has strong longing to his mother. He attacked Sukegoro who killed his boss Hanzo. Sukegoro’s comrades Kihachi and Shichigoro now try to avenge themselves on Sukegoro’s sworn brother Hanjiro. Accepting their challenge, Hanjiro is about to leave, but his mother stops him. Chutaro slays Kihachi and Shichigoro. He writes with Omura’s help: “These men were slain by Chutaro who was born in Bamba, Sakata county in Omi province,” so that Hanjiro will not be involved in trouble. Chutaro feels longing to his mother stronger as he writes. He decides to search for his own mother and goes for Edo where his mother is supposed to live.
He believes to have found her in Ohama, the mistress of a restaurant, but she refuses to acknowledge him to protect the reputation of her daughter Otose. Otose blames Ohama for her cruel deed. To hear this, Ohama changes her thought and they seek Chutaro. They call Chutaro, but he closes his ears and hides himself. A ruffian Kingoro plans to be the bridegroom of the daughter to succeed the restaurant. He tries to kill Chutaro, but Chutaro slays him easily after Chutaro has made sure Kingoro has no parents and children. Chutaro closes his eyes and tries to imagine her as the beautiful woman he remembers, not the horror of reality.
TOMO YAKKO 【Servant attending his Master】
A samurai footman rushes after his master in the pleasure quarters, but loses sight of him. He dances with pride in his master and enjoys his dance so much that he begins emphasizing it with vigorous foot stamping.
Evening Show (from 4:15 PM)
KENUKI 【The Whiskers Tweezers】
In 1742, the actor Ichikawa Danjuro II (1688-1758) made a big gamble. His father Danjuro I had created the bombastic aragoto style with exaggerated movements and red make-up to indicate strength but his career was cut short when he was murdered on stage. The big question was whether this vigorous style which was suited to the tastes of the brash new city of Edo would be acceptable to the more refined tastes of Osaka and Kyoto. This play retains the light, festive atmosphere of early-period kabuki.
The strip of paper on which Ono no Komachi’s poem is written is the heirloom of Ono family Ono, but it is lost. Harukaze, the prince of Ono Family, is in charge of the key of the storehouse where the heirloom was kept. So he intends to commit ritual suicide taking the blame for it. The imperial court wants to use it to pray for rain. Harumichi’s father Harukaze blames Harumichi for giving up his life without seeking it. Nishikinomae, the princess of Ono family, has a mysterious ailment that makes her hair stand on end, an ailment that prevents her from carrying out her long-awaited marriage. Kumedera Danjo comes from the groom’s household to investigate and finds a plot to take over the household when his tweezers float in mid-air. This is one of the “Eighteen Favorite Plays of the Ichikawa Danjuro Family.” This collection mostly features plays with the bombastic aragoto style of acting, but “Kenuki” is different. Kumedera Danjo resolves all the problems with his wits, rather than with a display of superhuman strength. This urbane, witty detective story unfolds in a world of fantasy, showing the spirit of early kabuki.
RENJISHI 【Father and Son Lion Dance】
This is one of the most popular dances in kabuki, showing parent and child lion spirits. In Asian tradition, the shishi is not really a lion, but a kind of mythical creature that guards the mythical stone bridge to heaven. There is also a tradition that the way a parent shishi teaches its child is very severe and in this dance, the father lion throws his son into a valley, hoping that he will have the strength to climb back up on his own.
GONZA TO SUKEJU 【Gonza and Sukeju】
This is a comedy by Okamoto Kido (1872-1939). One summer day the residents of the nagaya tenement clean the well. A palanquin bearer Sukeju tells Gonza to help cleaning, but he doesn’t. The owner of the tenement Rokurobei orders Gonza to do. Hikosaburo comes from Osaka. He is a son of a haberdasher Hikobei who has been a resident of the tenement. He received a letter from Rokurobei which tells that his father killed the retired mistress of a hotel, stole much money, was captured and died in prison. Hikosaburo can’t believe this. Gonza and Sukeju confess to have witnessed a plasterer Kantaro washing the sleeve and something glitters. To hear this, Rokurobei hands over Gonza, Sukeju and Hikosaburo to the magistrate with a false crime, hoping they will tell the truth at the magistrate’s office.
Kantaro goes out from prison. He kills the monkey of the monkey trainer Yosuke as it jumps to him. The residents of the tenement get angry at his attitude and bind him. An official comes and takes him to prison. Rokurobei returns. The magistrate Ooka Echizen had no evidence of Kantaro’s murder, so he let Kantaro go out and let officials look out for Kantaro, who was going to burn blood stained purse which he had hidden. This modern play takes one of the classic stories of the wise magistrate Ooka Echizen and looks at it from the point of view of common townspeople.