Hyakuman and Aoinoue

Oshima noh stage, Fukuyama, Japan.

On Sunday the Workshop participants attended the performances of Hyakuman and Aoinoue at the Oshima Noh Theatre.

Hyakuman tells the story of a young boy who is brought to a temple festival by a priest who found him near Nara. At the temple they see a crazed woman who dances while chanting the nenbutsu (Amida invoking prayer). She says that she’s become mad because of the loss of her son and now she dances to pray for his safe return. Finally the priest reveals that the child is her son, and the two are reunited.

Oshima Mazanobu performs in Hyakuman.

The lead role was performed by Oshima Masanobu, and the child actor was his granddaughter (Oshima Teruhisa’s daughter.) It goes without saying that Mr. Oshima brings a lifetime of skill and artistry to his performances. Seeing him perform with his granddaughter was a heart-warming experience; she was entirely charming and it was a rare privilege to watch what (potentially) is the beginning of another noh actor’s career.

Oshima Masanobu and his granddaughter in Hyakuman.

The musicians were quite accomplished, and the otsuzumi and kotsuzumi players were brothers. This gave the interaction of their drum calls a unique resonance with the pitches of their voices well blended and their timing both fluid and precise. It was clear they’d played together many times. The jiutai was more than competent and strong.

Aoinoue is derived from the tale of Genji, and tells the story of Genji’s wife who becomes possessed by the living spirit of Lady Rokujō (Genji’s former lover.) The family doesn’t know why Lady Aoi has fallen ill, and so a priestess is consulted to help cure her. The priestess reveals that she is possessed, and so a mountain priest is brought to exorcise the invading spirit. As the priest starts his invocation, Lady Rokujō driven by her great jealousy and loss appears in the Hannya mask and assaults both Lady Aoi and the priest. The priest prays (with a spiritual battle ensuing) and eventually the priest prevails and Lady Rokujō’s spirit becomes peaceful. The play is unique since Lady Aoi is never physically present on stage and is instead represented by an empty kimono laid out on the forestage

Oshima Kinue performs in Aoinoue.

Oshima Kinue performed the lead role, and navigated the difficult costume manipulations ably. She brought forth the emotions of the piece clearly and Lady Rokujō’s agony was evident in both her voice and body. Ms. Kinue has a powerful presence on the stage; it would be a callow heart that failed to connect with her performance.

Lady Rakujo [Oshima Kinue] confronts the yamabushi priest in a spiritual battle in Aoinoue.

If you plan to travel to the Kansai area at all in upcoming years, a trip to the Oshima Noh Theatrewould be worth your time and effort. The Oshima family is quite accomplished, and they bring a balance of skill, sincerity and excitement to their performances. Their generosity of spirit is unmatched.

Oshima Teruhisa performs shimai.

Over the next two days the workshop participants will return to the Oshima Noh Theatre building and participate directly in the hands-on dressing of costumes as led by Osada-sensei.

Kyogen actors perform in the interval between Hyakuman and Aoinoue.

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About Theatre Nohgaku

Noh, one of the oldest continuing stage arts, combines highly stylized dance, chant, music, mask and costume with intense inner concentration and physical discipline, creating a uniquely powerful theatrical experience. Theatre Nohgaku’s mission is to share noh’s beauty and power with English speaking audiences and performers. We have found that this traditional form retains its dramatic effectiveness in languages other than Japanese. We believe noh techniques hold a powerful means of expression in the context of contemporary English language theatre.
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