Mermaid Theatre, London EC4
Opened 19 September, 1991

How better to be introduced to a major Japanese theatre style than through a strong but familiar story? That's the only concession made to an audience unused to Kabuki; all other conventions of the form are rigidly observed right down to the traditional yells of approval at climactic moments from a couple of audience plants. But these conventions aren't impenetrable; expression of moods is less apparent in the stylised body language, but faces and voices convey emotions with sometimes breathtaking elegance.

Somegoro Ichikawa's maddened Ophelia, in particular, is a tablet from which all marks of meaning have been piteously erased (even if the limp bough s/he carried made me think, for a lunatic instant, of Morrissey) indeed, young Ichikawa, who also plays Hamlet and Fortinbras, is the undoubted star of the proceedings. We don't see enough of this form to know what makes for good Kabuki, but a revelation is a revelation in any language.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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