Nogaku Shorin, publisher of the Nogaku Times, the most popular monthly tabloid reporting on the world of Noh with interviews, essays and performance ‘reviews’ (or ‘reports’, as they should be called) has finally made the move toward digitalisation launching the Nogaku Times website. While I believe most of the contents will still be available only in the paper publication, it is encouraging to notice a sign of ‘modernisation’ (it’s 2015…) of the methods for diffusing news on Noh.
Claire suggested me this promo video by Canon, showing off the amazing capabilities of the 5D Mark II model camera. Interestingly enough, Canon used Noh for the concept of this advertisement. The images are just gorgeous and I love the superimposition of movements and non-Noh music. Philologically, the autumn sequences are a bit out of place as Hagoromo, the play shown, is a Spring play ‘par excellence’. The authors were probably inspired more by the colours of the choken, the dance cloak the shite wears in the second half of the play. Though my impression of the video is very positive, I know other people in the Noh would be annoyed by what is sometimes considered an over-aestheticisation of what should be more austere and less flashy. However, Noh is not in the Taisho era anymore and I wonder to what extent it is possible (and meaningful?) to leave it as it was…
Any non-Japanese Noh enthusiast has sooner or later faced the bitter truth about the scarce interest of his or her Japanese peers. ‘reminds me of my grandpa’.. ‘it’s stuff only good for ojisan’.. ‘isn’t it called Kabuki?’ are only some of the responses I heard from young Japanese when engaged in a conversation on what I think is the most beautiful thing on the planet. Most of the young generation do not have a clue of what Noh is, and do not bother at all. Its language (performative, poetic, visual) does not speak to the contemporary audience – or, contemporary audience grew too illiterate to be able to understand it. Noh world has lost touch with its audience: it just takes you to go to an average Noh performance to realise the average age is around 60. Shocking, if you are used to go to the Globe.
Among the various attempts at healing this broken bound, and reconnect with the lost audience are workshops, demonstrations, exhibitions, inviting non-habitual Noh theatregoers to give it a try. In summer 2008 I attended a most interesting Parents and Children Noh performance at the National Noh Theatre in Tokyo. The programme featured a funny and engaging introductory speech by a Kyogen actor, followed by the Kyogen Kaminari (‘The God of Thunder’) and the Noh Kokaji (‘The Fox Swordsmith’).
Both plays are very dynamic pieces in the repertoire and in fact resulted in a big success: kids (8 years old on the average) laughed out loud during Kaminari and jumped on their chairs during Kokaji, imitating fights with the magic sword. Children and parents had also the chance to try out instruments and masks in the theatre lobby. Among the cutest features of the day was the printed programme, introducing Noh and its elements in a deformed manga style. I loved this day at the National Noh Theatre as much as the kids did. How long before they lose their interest?