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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Kabuki

Last January I used a visit to Tokyo to see a Kabuki performance at the Shimbashi Enbujo Theater. As you may know Kabuki is a traditional form of acting, performed exclusively by men. It involves elaborately designed costumes, eye-catching make-up, outlandish wigs and Japanese music played by a small band using traditional instruments. I didn't understand a word of what was said but I was spellbound by the acting. The movements of the actors are highly-stylized, the tone and color of their voices has a meaning that the Japanese audience understands immediately. Nothing is realistic. I remember the scene of a mother - played by a white-faced man - who discovers that her child died. The actor used gestures and strange vocal tones to indicate extreme pain. No hysteric cries, no sobbing and sighing, just very high-pitched nasal sounds. Those gestures and sounds told the audience My heart's breaking, which was obviously meant to trigger in the spectator the memory of some own agony. The underscoring music was not dramatic at all. The effect was nevertheless overwhelming. 

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