Kabuki theater is well-known around the world for its flamboyant costumes, extravagant stagings, and dramatic plots. Dating from the early 17th century (roughly contemporary with Shakespeare’s last years), this art form has gone through several changes, with the most recent, and most dramatic being the so-called “Super Kabuki”.
This latest form includes a variety of music from different genres rather than the traditional Japanese musical backing. Pioneered in 1986, it incorporates special effects, lighting and stage arts from Western theater, traditional kabuki revolving stages, flying on wires, and trapdoors and other traditional tricks of the trade.
The inventor of the genre, who used the stage name of Ichikawa Ennosuke III, brought in new audiences who had been indifferent to traditional kabuki through these innovations. It added more excitement and spectacle to this theatrical art, which has been described as “pantomime for adults”.
This month, the traditional stage name of Ichikawa Ennosuke was taken up by Ichikawa Kamejiro, who will perform the first of the “Super Kabuki” pieces to be developed 26 years ago, “Yamato Takeru”. The play is scheduled to run for almost two months in Tokyo, and will move to Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka in the New Year.
Ichikawa Ennosuke IV intends the performances to be a tribute to his predecessor, and has expressed his wish to provide a “magnificent spectacle” for those who are lucky enough to have obtained tickets to this new twist on an old art form.