Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pickling artistic tradition in human flesh

For the FT, David Pilling lunches with kabuki royalty Danjuro Ishikawa XII:
I want to know about his acting style. I once saw him play an illustrious priest who slowly realises that a beggar woman visiting his temple is, in fact, the mother who abandoned him as a baby. The scene was filled with tension and poignancy but was in no way an attempt at naturalism.

“There are two ways in performing kabuki. When you express sadness,” he says, hissing the Japanese word, kanashii, like a cat, “you can show sadness by crying out loud. But sometimes the performer only briefly shows a sad face. In this case, within the elision lies the truth. Another important characteristic of kabuki is the ma, the pauses. When the performer is surprised by something, he doesn’t react immediately, but pauses and then makes a surprised reaction,” he says, turning his face into a mask and then flashing astonishment. “It is during this pause that the performer pours the feeling into the play.”
Goodness, I would like to see that...

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