I’m sorry the pictures are really small and everything is hard to see. I forgot my camera and had to use my phone. But anyways, at a festival on Friday there was this traditional Noh performance going on at Hokkaido Temple. Noh is similar to Kabuki, but also different in many ways.
Me, not being an expert on Noh, found a handy site to summarize it for you:
The earliest written reference to religious plays refers to Kagura (God music) a form of music and dance enacted in the presence of the gods, but as Buddhism spread its influence, and Buddhist priests became responsible for the literary preservation of the works, early comic content was removed, and the Noh plays developed as verse chanted by the actors.
The word Noh literally means accomplishment, and the format was refined between the 14th and 16th centuries into the song and dance format as it stands today. The classic repertoire consists of five types of play, God, Ghost, Woman, Mad-Person, and Demon, and each play lasts approximately an hour. Interspersed between each play will be a 20 minute Kyogen performance.
Kyogen to Noh is the equivalent of a West End musical to Grand Opera. It is usually set in present day, and has a high comic content. Noh is far more serious, with highly poetic lyrics, and serious dancing and singing.
Probably the single identifying feature of Noh theatre is the use of masks by the actors. These are probably recognised throughout much of the world, by people who have never even heard of Noh. Since facial expression is therefore not possible, emotion is conveyed through gestures such as foot stamping, or fan movements. All performers are male and the lyrics are chanted in a highpitched voice by actors and chorus. To one side of the stage is an orchestra of flute and drum and traditionally the staging is outside, but more usually nowadays, using a thatched stage canopy and a backdrop to represent trees. Stage “props” are minimal, and usually symbolic, such as the placing of a white kimono on stage to represent a dead person.
The main character in a Noh performance is the shite (pronounced sh’tay), usually appearing as a normal person in the first half, and later assuming his true form as a ghost of a famous person long departed. The secondary actor is the waki, usually a travelling priest. The story unfolds through his questioning of the main character. The chorus is known as jiutai and normally consists of eight people, narrating the background and the story itself.