Invitation to Kabuki - Guidance for Kabuki appreciation
Expression in Kabuki
Expression of roles
In the Edo period, hair styles, clothing, speech mannerisms, and tools people use, were roughly settled according to sex, social status, age, job and situation. Costumes, makeup, props and acting in Kabuki have been exaggerated and stylized based on these settled factors in order to clearly express the characteristics of each role.
The method of exaggeration and stylization of costumes, makeup and props is closely related to the setting of each type of work, such as Jidaimono or Sewamono, and the characteristics of each role.
> Kabuki repertoire: Classification of repertoire
> Kabuki means: Public entertainment pursuing stylized expression
To "Expression of various roles"
The costumes for bushi (samurai) and kuge (court nobles) who appear in Jidaimono are more exaggerated and stylized, because their lives were so distant from those of the common people who were the audience in the Edo period. In particular, costumes for clearly-defined role types such as Aragoto and Kugeaku (villainous court lords) are more exaggerated and stylized, to reveal their characters at a glance.
The distinctive features of costumes for Jidaimono roles do not always reflect the actual clothing of the periods in which the plays are set. For instance, many of the characters in "Imoseyama onna teikin," based on the Taika no kaishin (reformation of the Taika era) of ancient times, wear costumes based on Edo period clothing. This is because, in the Edo period, when this play was first performed, there was no sense of historical research, and the characteristics of each of the dramatis personae could be expressed in a more easy-to-understand way by incorporating contemporary costumes, makeup and hair styles.
On the other hand, the costumes for Sewamono roles were quite similar to the clothes worn by audience members at the time. Therefore, these roles and their characteristics are expressed mainly by the colors and patterns of costumes.
Katsura (wig)
Wig used in Kabuki are basically constituted of 4 parts: bin [the sections of hair on both sides of the face], tabo [hair on the back of the head], mage [central section of hair done up in various shapes] and maegami [forelock]. The roles and their characteristics are expressed by variations and combinations of each of these parts. For the same reason as for costumes, the degrees of exaggeration and stylization in Jidaimono are more extreme than for Sewamono.
The variety of wigs for Tachiyaku (male roles) is said to be about 1,000 kinds, but for Onnagata (female roles) there are only about 400, because the roles and their characteristics set for Tachiyaku are more complex.
Props can be roughly divided into Hommono (real things) actually used in daily life and Koshiraemono (created things) created in order to be effectively shown on stage. Koshiraemono precisely express each role and its characteristics, so are often more effective than Hommono.
A typical example is the enormous sword used by Kamakura Gongoro, the hero of "Shibaraku," in a typical Aragoto role. This sword is nearly 2 meters long. Of course, this sword is not a Hommono, it is a Koshiraemono. The splendidly powerful and violent-tempered Gongoro can be more effectively expressed by using an exaggerated Koshiraemono than by using a Hommono sword.
Kamakura Gongoro carrying the huge sword of "Koshiraemono" on his shoulder. "Shibaraku" Kabukiza, November 1895
Examples of methods for expressing "Sono yaku rashisa" (looks like that role), shown by actual roles.
To "Expression of various roles"