The Whiskers Tweezers*
Today I saw Kabuki at the National Theatre.
The history bit: Kabuki is a theatre form that was started in the early 1600's, in Kyoto, by a troupe of dancing girls. It became all controversial and they were labeled as eccentric and unorthodox (the Japanese word of which is Kabuki) and there dances were banned as a result. The troupes of women were replaced by dancing boys, and they were also banned and then replaced by adult men who developed kabuki into what it is today. Along the line the meaning of the word 'kabuki' changed to Ka (song), Bu (dance), Ki (technique or skill). Originally kabuki consisted of short dances but now it's made up of plays and dances, many dating back to the 17th and 18th century. Originally this was aimed at the merchant classes, at the same time that Noh Theatre was being played to anyone else. A normal trip to kabuki can last for 4, 5 or more hours. End of history bit.
Luckily, today wasn't a 'normal' performance but much better. There was an introductory lecture explaining how the theatre is used in kabuki and some of the 'tricks' that are used, how the props are brought onto the stage and handed to the actors as needed and so on. Interesting, but I'd been hoping for more information. Anyway, a couple of volunteers from the audience were taken on the stage and got to handle the swords, chase each other around with butterflies and foxes and help demonstrate the 'secrets' used in karaoke. They were very funny.
Most of the 'action' involved the actors sitting on the stage which was dressed as a tatami'd room (tatami = straw / bamboo mats). They wore traditional kimono, had whitened faces and hair tied into top-knots. They spoke in high pitched long drawn out voices.
The story was about a princess due to get married but who won't meet up with her fiancee because she has a strange ailment that makes her hair stand up on end. Now, we're not talking vain bitch with a bad hair day here, the whole metre length of her hair sticks up into the air. (Thanks to a stage hand with a load of strands on a broom kneeling behind her). Anyway, blokey from the groom's household comes over to visit and sees his tweezers floating in mid-air. From this he concludes that there is a plot to take over the bride's household and that there is a guy hiding in the ceiling with a giant magnet. Blokey is very clever.
And everyone lives happily ever after. Apart from guy with magent and another man who get killed.
Luckily, we had headphones with English commentary. But then the Japanese also had commentary as apparantly it's meant to be pretty hard to follow and understand even if you DO speak the language.
* tweezers used to be carried by men to pluck out any stray chin hairs. The tweezers we saw being enchanted were giant size.
Other stuff from this weekend: parent observations are now over and all went well. I've concluded the parents aren't that bothered about the kids learning English, just that they have a good time. Should we be worried by this? My final observation was one of my favourite kids (actually, that's unfair. I love most of my kids and teens, apart from the ones that bore me or who won't try!). Anyway, this kid I'm talking about - her dad came to observe. She's a great kid and we always have a giggle. She loves English and is a pleasure to teach. I particularly love the way she always uses 'oops' if she drops the ball or makes a mistake! I was teaching her about musical instruments: 'I play the piano', 'I play the drums', etc and after teaching the target language I got her dad involved and made him mime the 6 instruments for her to guess. He got so totally into it, that we all ended up laughing our heads off. Nice.
Oo - just felt a good three minutes of earthquake. (Monday morning 01:20) Haven't felt one so long in many many months. I hope this isn't the aftershock of some terrible quake I'll hear about in the morning.