chapter  5
12 Pages

Episodes in the Career of the Kabuki Actor Nakamura Utaemon III, Including His Rivalry with Arashi Rikan I

Kabuki's rich use of signs and symbols is to be expected in a traditional nonrealistic form of theatre. That signs are more numerous than symbols in kabuki is not surprising either, for kabuki is a popular form, and the popular audience demands an instant understanding. In the theatre, realistic actors in everyday clothing correspond to the phonetically written word. They have the literalness of such writing and little of the suggestiveness of the hieroglyph. The actor performing a mie may dispose his limbs in a number of ways, but he always expresses immense controlled energy. In the central mie from Kumagai's narrative in Kumagai Jinya as performed by the late Matsumoto Koshiro VIII, the easily recognized features of one of contemporary kabuki's most impressive performers. Tadanobu, cutting across the boundaries between the human and the supernatural, is a particularly rich hieroglyph. Tadanobu's roppo also reminds that the kabuki actor is a dancer.