Cinema Kabuki - Thoughts and costume observations

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Cinema Kabuki - Thoughts and costume observations

Post by IG Team » Wed Jun 29, 2016 9:23 pm



So impendingautumn and I saw all four of the plays being shown on the big screen as "Cinema Kabuki" here in Toronto, and it was really eye-opening to both of us. She hadn't seen any kabuki, and I'd only watched dance performances by Tamasaburo. So we weren't really sure what to expect!

The Zen Substitute (Migawari Zazen):
It's based on a Kyogen play, so it used both Nagauta and Tokiwazu styles of music. The costumes were also a mix of eras, which really confused me at first!

The lady's maids wore geisha-style Edo outfits with shimada hairstyles, wide obi, wide puffy obijime, tateya obi-musubi, and padded hems hitched up with shigoki. The lady wore a similar outfit with bunko musubi, but oddly wore her hair down in a ponytail (but with a low collar!).

The lord wore a matching nagabakama and open-sleeved Heian-style uchigi set, boldly patterned, with big decorative roundels appliquéd at the juncture of arm and body. His servant wore kamishimo.

Murder in a Hell of Oil:
Premiered as a Bunraku play in 1721, but wasn't successful. Became a Kabuki play in 1909. It was very serious and dramatic, a murder tragedy and the climax was just amazing - there were vats of oil that they knocked over in the fight and were fighting while sliding around in the oil! I was wondering how they clean the costumes and the sets!! It was suprisingly modern-seeming, almost Hitchcockian.

Costumes were typical Edo, everyone in subdued stripes/checks and the ladies all wore chuya obi done in hikinuki tsunodashi, with black satin collars. The little girl wore a red asanoha obi tied in kai-no-kuchi with obijime. All the ladies wore their chuya tied black-side-out with the top layer folded outwards to show a stripe of colour. I'm going to try this with my chuya!

Heron Maiden (Sagi Musume):
Of course Tamasaburo was amazing! It was really great to see him perform on the big screen after only seeing Youtube videos up until now. The detail was fantastic and I am always amazed by the costume changes. Seeing it so big on the screen meant I could actually see the hidden layers from time to time. XD

This one was really long, but SUPER funny and was like a very long sketch comedy act. The actors broke the fourth wall a lot, clearly cracking up onstage and sometimes it seemed like they were ad-libbing. The comic characters, especially the anachronistic Hokaibo, made fun of the slow-speaking and super serious prince and princess characters, and there were topical jokes (including Obama and George Bush jokes!).

It had a spectacular ending, in which a whole bunch of guys are doing acrobatics, holding up a platform on which the two leads fight, then the entire back wall of the theatre opened up! Cherry blossoms everywhere!

There were a lot of references/parodies of more serious kabuki conventions, some of which I could see were referring to something specific but I don't watch enough kabuki to know exactly!

They also had an awesome use of the koken stage ninjas - they were both invisible, like in standard kabuki, and then acknowledged occasionally to hilarious effect. There were even real balls of green fire hanging on wires to represent ghosts!

Costumes: Everyone wore padded hems, even guys! The married women wore subdued komon with chuya obi (like in Murder) but the maidens wore flashy susohiki with darari obi.
At the end, the prince and his bride were wearing matching kimono - hers was a black furisode with motifs at the hem and sleeve bottoms, and his looked like a kurotomesode! I thought that was kind of odd, does anybody know about this?

Overall I really want to see more kabuki, and study kabuki costumes so I can identify what elements are theatre-specific. :lovelove

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