So two fridays ago I went and saw Kaka Saiyuki. I feel very behind in my posts but surprisingly a lot of things have been going on.
The play was amazing. I really enjoy this Kabuki theater as well. It is very new compared to the other ones I think. I look forward to going to it again this month. The kabuki theater is actually a play house for many different kinds of theaters, the Japan National Theater, and thus not really a kabuki theater at all. In fact I think they have a very Western play preforming there this month. But it is still a very nice Theater. It kind of reminds me of the Kennedy Center in D.C. and is the first Japanese theater I have been in to do so. Despite it's many parts it is still much smaller than the Kennedy Center. In fact, the room we were in held less people than either the Kabuki-za or the other theater we were in to see 12th Night. But it gave it a very friendly atmosphere I though, it was very homey, and not so intimidating as the other two.
The beginning of the play was awesome
because it was one of those introductory plays, I believe, that the National Theater puts on. I really enjoyed the beginning introduction to Kabuki. They had two of senior actors come out and give a small presentation on the different noises and movements of Kabuki and what they meant. My favorite was when the one guy pretended to be a ghost and control him. And they had a bit of chemical induced burning cloth on a bamboo pole that they wove around to make it look like a spirit. I thought that was really cool. I know it was chemically induced and real flame because it was green, and produced smoke, I was very impressed that they let real fire in a building, but I guess the could hundred years Kabuki has been practiced has been enough time to perfect the techniques implemented.
I also like it when the same man did the short dance piece, it was very good. They did it like a very entertaining comedy act, but even with out the head set ( I didn't have enough money at the time so I couldn't buy one) I understood enough for it to be funny, and for me to get the basic gist of what they were explaining. I thought it was a very good way to introduce people (especially children) to kabuki. They also explained what the different drum beats and different instruments represented. It was cool to hear the actual musicians with out any singing or talking over them. I think that all Japanese middle schools should take trips to the national theater. Most of the Japanese people I have talked to have never seen Kabuki and that is very sad I think. They should know more about their culture than I do, and most don't, at least not when it comes to Kabuki.
The opening scene was very cool, having Sanzo, Hakkai, and Gojiyo (the guys who are cool, but not quite as cool as Goku) walking down the Hanami to this big castle set. They are tired and thirsty from their travels. And while Sanzo (being the kind and wise priest) that he is goes off and talks to the lady of the castle (Queen) and meets up with her sister, who ends up kinda seducing him. While this is going on Hakkai decides to drink the wholy spring that will impregnate ANYONE that drinks from it... getting him pregnant. He finda this out after the maiddens of the court tell him this.
SO, since neither of them can do anything really about it, they call on the AWESOME POWER OF GOKU, the Monkey King. I am getting all of this from what I know of the original text (which is very little, but downloadable off of Wikipedia so I might have to read it) and the Mang/Anime series, which were both given very modern and almost modern vs. traditional twist, in that the Deamon bad guys also had robots, not to mention the main good guys were horribly horribly sexy, and in the original Goku is actually half monkey and Hakkai is a pig... so there are some comparisons that don't match up.
Goku, in a very very dramatic dance pice that was WICKED AWESOME!!! cuts open Hakkai and takes out the fetus... I wonder how the Evangelicals would view this part. I know this whole drama doesn't take place in the manga, but I wonder how closely to the original text they kept. Also the whole character relation in the manga was different. For example, in the manga Sanzo was actually the main and strongest Character. They also did a lot of back story on all of the characters. And Goku was not the wisest at all, in fact he was shown as a child and acted like one.
So again, I am thinking that this play kept closer to the original text, however, I know for a fact that the original text was very very long, and more like the manga/anime, had many different deamons that they had to come up against before they could fight the main deamon. I am guessing that this Kabuki version only took one of the mini battles from the original text, keeping character relations the same, but kept to the plot and feel of that one trial very closely. I will have to read the text to be sure, but this is my guess.
The play was wonderfully acted out though. Short of it is, the Queen and her sister turn out to be spider deamons that take Sanzo and bind him in this big rock. I believe Hakkai and Gojyo are kinda scared off after a futal attempt to save him, and are in fact then captured by a bunch of lesser spider deamonesses. Son Goku, makes a bunch of dople gangers (which are actually little children and they are SOOO ADORABLE!!!! and they do this cute cute dance session) which gives Goku more power. So he can go off and fight the big scary Spider Deamonesses.
The final fight scene between Goku and the Spider Deamons is awesome. They used great face paint to make them look like spider deamons, and you can really see why it is called Super Kabuki here. There was a lot of acrobatic work and this battle lasted a good long time. I was kind of tired just watching it. The goons of the Spider Deamonesses kept doing all the flips and drops and things when Goku attacked them. There ended up being a lot of them on stage. They also used different props to fight him. At one point they made a giant spider web out of rope and Goku actually sat on top of it and they lifted him and spun him around. They also used ladders and spears for the fight scene. The choreography was really excelent.
They did something else I approved of, and actually used replicas of the weapons that Goku, Hakkai, and Gojyo use. All of which have a pole as part of them (a bow (stalf not bow and arrow), a rake type thing, and I can't remember the name of it but it has a crecent blade at the end of a pole) respectivally. They did some really awesome tricks with there weapons that remind me of my color guard days. In fact I know how to do all of the tricks they did except this one where Gojyo and Goku have traded weapons and Goku catches his own weapon in the 'U' part of Gojyos and spins them so that it looks like a helicopter. I believe I understand that basics of this move but have never had a flag pole with a 'U' shapped part at the end, so I have never had the ability to try. They did some very basic moves like butterflys and flourishes, but they must have had their poles really weighted other wise it would have been really hard to get the amount of speed they were getting. They also did some fun tricks like where everyone throws their pole at the person accross from them and catch the pole being thrown at them. Also where every one throws their pole straight up vertically and run around in a circle and catch the weapon of the person who WAS standing to their right. I was very impressed with their tossing ability.
I respect Super Kabuki a lot, because it is so new. Most of the people doing regular kabuki have been practicing since they were tiny. But with Super Kabuki, everything is new. So you have to learn a new style or a new skill from scratch, you haven't been seeing it for years. I think it would make it a lot harder, and it also gives people who are not hereditary kabuki actors a chance to get on stage and get major roles. Not to say that I like Super Kabuki better than regular Kabuki, I think they both have their good points. But I enjoyed seeing my first live super kabuki.
For example, going back to the learning new things, I loved the way Son Goku was portrayed. His dance scenes were done amazingly. The actor really acted like a Monkey, it was amazing. I wonder if he studied how monkeys moved and acted before doing the part, because he got many of their habits and mannerisms down pat. I really enjoyed it and it made the character much more fun. For example, the way he moved, and held him self kind of at a slouch the entier time. Also I LOVED the random belly or ear or head scratching he would do, just like a real monkey. It must have been really hard to get those movements down, they do not seem very natural for a human, but he did it effortlessly it seemed. I have never seen a kabuki that requierd the actor to act in a way that was nothing like human. The closest I have seen has probably been the lion dance or when a ghost is on stage, it does act like a zombie or something not alive more than a person, simply by it's movements or the way it holds its self.
I also really liked the use of make up in this kabuki. Goku looked like a monkey, Hakkai looked like a pig, and Sanzo looked distinguished. I never really understood what Gojyo was supposed to be anyways. I think some sort of water deamon, I know he is half and half, he looked very good though and very appropritate I think. And as I said before, the make up on the spider deamon people was AMAZING!!! They have big black fangs and most of their make up was black and white and a little gray in the cheeks and around the eyes I think.
Did I also mention the spider deamonesses had metalic orange kimono with black spider webs on it that were lifted to make them look bigger when they were pissed. They also made wonderful use of party favors. The little ones that shoot out streamers were used to represent webs and were everywhere for the big fight scene at the end.
I look forward to seeing this Kabuki again in the near future. I am hoping it comes out on dvd at some point, it will totally be on my birthday list for a while to come. I also would like to do a modern dance interperitation of this play, including the flag/stalf twiriling bits, since those were some of my favorite parts. I now want to read the translation of the original Saiyuki text and see how it compares with this play and the manga. Or at the least I want to read the part where they fight the spider deamon.
Again, I believe that the manga kept with the multiple battle story line (where they had to fight a lot of bad guys to get to the main bad guy and fulfill their purpose) where as this was like a mini plot, and indeed, looking back on it, they didn't really have any point in the plot line, Travlers, head of party captured by deamons, rescue head of party, continue traveling, nothing really REALLY resloved. Though I may have missed the part that says they are on some quest due to the lack of the head set. This is one of the plays where I wish I had had the head set. Next play I go to I must remember to get one. However, digressing, I believe that this play stuck to the characters personas better, instead of having Goku as the annoying kid who happens to fight good, he is the wisest and toughest of the group. I liked the combination, but it leaves me wanting more, I want to see part two or the sequal to this play. I need to watch more Super Kabuki and see if I like them just as much.
Expect Part 3 this weekend. That will hopefully compare Saiyuki and 12th Night to each other. A new form of Western based Kabuki and Super Kabuki.
Hope you enjoyed.