I normally despise English puns on ‘Noh’, usually lame and trite. But after reading the delightful report of a Noh performance I found on a blog by WK Hellestal that I copy below, I couldn’t refrain from doing one myself. I personally sympathise with the spectators who really cannot cope with the Noh dramatic devices, and come up with the most fanciful observations – the variety of reactions that Noh theatre can generate is just amazing.
My first visit to the local Noh theater. I didn’t understand a damn thing, but apparently the performances are done in classical Japanese, so I’m not sure how much the native audience understood either.
Masks were interesting. Costumes were beautiful. Drumming and random shouting were cool. But I need a story, so I made one up in my head as I watched. A brief summary of the first act, as interpreted by me.
Ghost A: I don’t like you.
Ghost B: I don’t like you either.
Ghost A: Can we agree to put aside our differences for the moment, in order to join forces to terrorize these helpless townspeople?
Ghost B: My distaste for you has been ameliorated somewhat by the undeniable allure of your plan.
Mayor: No! Don’t terrorize us! We’re helpless!
Ghost A: Hahahaha! Terrorize!
Mayor: No, seriously. We’re not helpless. I’m a ghostbuster. I studied psychology and parapsychology under Dr. Venkman.
Ghost A: I don’t see no damn proton pack on your back.
Mayor: It’s, uh… being dry-cleaned. It’s due back today, though. Any time now.
Ghost B: Isn’t my fan cool? I have a fan. It’s super cool.
Mayor: Not just your fan, dude. That’s some wild-ass hair you got going on. I mean, I know it’s a wig, but it’s a fucking great wig.
Ghost A: Don’t get too chummy. We’re supposed to be terrorizing him, remember?
Ghost B: You’re not the boss of me.
Ghost A: Am too.
Ghost B: Are not.
Ghost A and B: Argh!
Mayor: My plan of setting the two against each other has succeeded. I’m now going to sit in the corner and remain there for the rest of the performance, moving only to shift my weight when my legs start hurting from this uncomfortably formal kneeling style.
End Act 1
The rest of the story continued in a similar vein. I assume.”