Sunday, July 5, 2009

十二夜vs.かかさいゆうき: Twelfth Night vs. Saiyuki

As you can see, with the help of my lovely tutor and friend, Wendy, I now know how to type in Japanese. This is both a good and bad thing. Good in that it is now going to be sooooo much easier for me to practice Japanese and to do my projects ect. Bad in that you poor people are going to be the ones subjected to my Japanese ramblings and are thus not going to understand very much. But know that your patience and understanding is appreciated, and that this really might be a big turning point in my language study.

So FINALLY, we come to the last installment of the Twelfth Night/Saiyuki posts. And all I can say is it took me long enough. For your information I am about 3 weeks behind. I will probably make it a round month behind before I actually get totally caught up. But I will try my best not to dally in my blogging. I apologize if my tardiness inconveniences anyone who actually reads my dribble.

Anyways, onto the main event.

So the point of this post is to compare the similarities and differences in the styles of the two Kabuki that have been the topic of the past two blogs. I did this to an extent in the previous blog, so I apologize for any repetition. Basically I am breaking it down into a few main sections. Comparing performance style, how set and props affected that, and then comparing what I gathered from each play.

Obviously the performance style of each play was very different. Though both plays came from old stories they were very new scripts and neither play had ever been preformed as a kabuki before, not to the best of my knowledge anyways. Saiyuki was preformed as the epic adventure/action story that it (in my opinion) should be. With acrobatics and daring battle scenes I think it captured the adventuress feeling of the quest story it was derived from. Some of it's scenes, like the dance scene with the doppelganger monkey children and when Goku has to birth Hakai, make it almost like a comedy.

For me, the performance style of Saiyuki was very much like a mime act almost. You got the idea, or the feeling of humor or suspense, but all the time there was an under current of action, there wasn't really a down or up point to the play. Though admittedly the big fight scene at the end between the spider women and the good guys was the highlight and climax of the play. But all through out the play there was a sense of action.

The actors were also not the usual kabuki actors. The actor who played Goku studied dance and it was exceedingly apparent in his acting style. His movements sealed the performance for me. It was a slightly new way to preform a play. You really got an idea of the super kabuki element from how they acted, not to mention the stage set up and costumes.

Twelfth Night, however, I think kept very closely to that almost surreal feel that most of Shakespears plays have. Though parts of it were very humerus, such as with the "cross garter" scene, it remains a mystery story. There is a sense of drama to it, and it is not purely funny, but has to do with the emotions of many of the characters, especially since two think their sibling has died and some of the are suffering from unrequited love. And that was how Twelfth Night was acted, and I think should be acted. With emotion, when the characters are happy and laughing, it feels that way, when one is mourning that the one they love doesn't love them back, you feel bad.

I also got a very Western feel from the way the play was acted. It was very lightly acted, like most western plays and unlike most kabuki plays. The only real part where it felt kabuki (and even then it felt more Super Kabuki than the usual flavor) was in the scene on the boat in the storm, very big and loud. Everything else had the light "oh romeo where art thou" romantic feel. Usually romance is mixed with some form of depression in Kabuki because it seems that most lovers died terribly some how. This was mixed with only a mild desperation because half of the people aren't going to get a lover out of the situation. But even still, the play ended with a very happy ending, which is more than can be said for most kabuki plays with love as a topic. The whole play felt very western to me, it didn't feel like the usual kabuki. It felt lighter acted some how. More like natural people than the big Shibaraku type personalities. More real, not so dramatic.

With Saiyuki, the set and props matched the suspenseful feel. For example, when the castle starts decaying into the ruins when the evil spider women capture Sanzo, you really feel like "oh my, it's falling apart, RUN!" The costumes I though were just vibrant enough to grab attention and not be over the top.

In fact, compared to some kabuki's they were very low key. Even compared to other super kabuki, Saiyuki didn't try for outrageous, just exciting. The end scene for example, with the bright spider web kimono and the party streamers it was very exciting but it didn't have the over the top feel that Shibaraku, or the play with the guy and the huge anchor, or the きつね (kitsune/fox) Super Kabuki had. It was like a good action flick, exciting enough to keep you on the edge of your seat and saying wow, cool. But not so ridiculous to make you laugh and roll your eyes.

Twelfth Night's set kept with the dramatic Shakespeare feel. From the double sided glass in the beginning that almost eerily fades into the scene, to the spot lighted scene changes, where the main character is lit in such a very dramatically Shakespearean way. It made the play feel very dramatic. Also, the fact that you did have almost complete darkness for the scene changes was very dramatic because you didn't know what was coming next. It has highs and lows, it was a very emotional play, but still not acted as strongly as most of the kabuki. In their own ways, both of these plays were both acted much lighter than regular kabuki's. Twelfth Night was just more emotional, where as Saiyuki didn't have to be emotional to keep you interested.

Twelfth Night also didn't require any of the crazy acrobatic tricks in order to convey the message. The boat scene in the beginning was the only part that was truly amazing in the unbelievable sense. And even then only because you know there couldn't be an ocean on stage. The scene where the heroine is facing off with the foppish guy isn't actually that far from what one might expect to see in real life. Minus the strange costume, which is my opinion just kept to the silliness of the character and the slightly surreal feel found in all Shakespeare plays.

So, in short, I got a preservation of the Western traditional acting style from Twelfth Night. Saiyuki I felt a more modern western "action flick" style from the acting and the play as a whole. Though both had a surreal element, I though both tried to be less over the top than many of the Kabuki out there, while still managing to keep us guessing what was going to happen next. Saiyuki accomplished this through its fast pace action and humor filled acting and story interpritation (the dance scenes, the props, the colors). Where as Twelfth Night kept us hooked through it's appeal to our pathos and emotions, as well as it's dramatic use of lighting and set design. Both mixed non-Japanese stories into a very Japanese art for quite well. As represented in the costumes, the mixing of musical influences, and the acting styles. I think both plays represented the originals stories the came from quite well, though I would say that Twelfth Night kept closer to the original text than Saiyuki. I enjoyed both plays equally for different reasons. I hope that there is more mixing of cultures into Kabuki in the future. I would love to see an African based Kabuki, like the story of Anansi the spider trickster. Or a Brazillian story done to Kabuki. It is a wonderful way to spread culture and help introduce kabuki to other cultures by making it more reconizable for them.

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