Traditional Japanese theatre art comes to UAE

ABU DHABI — This Wednesday at 8pm, the National Theatre in Abu Dhabi will stage a Kabuki performance.


Silvia Radan

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Published: Tue 5 Sep 2006, 9:22 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 8:18 PM

This form of traditional Japanese theatre art will be staged for the first time in UAE.

Ammar Al Yasin, coordinator for Information and Culture at the Embassy of Japan in Abu Dhabi, said Kabuki tells life stories through the four seasons of the year, inspired by Japanese ethics, culture and philosophy in relation with universal human feelings.

"It is a very long performance, done by a large number of actors and usually lasts 4-5 hours, but here there will only be four actors, who will be on stage only for two hours," Al Yasin told Khaleej Times.

He added that the representation will be combined with explanations about acting skills and understanding this type of theatre play.

Kabuki has its origins in the early 17th century. It was first performed by women, who would often include in their act sensual dances and erotic scenes. For this reason, their shows became known as "kabuki", which actually means "shocking" or "out of the ordinary".

The performances were very popular, but fights often broke among the audience, so in order to redress this situation, the Japanese officials banned women from acting in these shows.

Today, some of the greatest stars of kabuki are the onnagata, male actors playing female roles, such as housewife, samurai lady, heroic or wicked woman.

The standard male roles are virtuous hero, handsome lover, evil courtier, amoral samurai and the unscrupulous rake.

The actors are not the only ones to appear on the stage, though. During dance performances, a koken (stage assistant) follows the movements of the dancer, but always remaining behind him, in order to assist him with a quick costume change.

At the right moment during the performance, the koken pulls out the dancer's first layer of clothing, revealing a new costume of different pattern and colour. Along with wigs and make-up, Japanese traditional costumes make this theatre art visually dazzling.

Over the centuries, kabuki became a highly appreciated art form and by 1700s it evolved into three distinct styles: jidai-mono (historical plays), sewa-mono (domestic plays) and shosagoto (dance pieces).

Coming for the first time to the UAE, the Japanese actors will only perform a sample of a kabuki representation. Apart from the show in the capital, there will also be one at the Cultural Palace in Sharjah, on September 9, at 8 pm.

The plays are being performed under the patronage of Abdul Rahman bin Mohamed Al Oweis, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, in co-operation with the Japanese Embassy in Abu Dhabi, the Consulate General of Japan in Dubai and the UAE-Japan Society.

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