Tokyo Kabukiza Monthly Kabuki Review 15th April – 1st May 1930 Part Two
Final part of a two-part series by kabuki collector Trevor Skingle!
歌舞伎座劇評集 No. 64 – 昭和5年 4月15日 – 昭和5年 5月1日 (Shōwa 5 nen, 15th April – 1st May 1930)
Sugi Nishi Monogatari (aka Ranpu no Moto nite) A Past Story (Under the Lamp) Series Part 12, Okamoto Kidō. page 60
The entire series was published as “Meiji Gekidan Ranpu no Motonite” (On the Theatre of the Meiji Period – Under the Lamp) published by Iwanami Shoten, in 1993
I had great admiration for the performance of the masterpiece ‘Imoseyama’ when Omiwa’s heartfelt emotions were displayed, then once during my feverish note taking on the play I was suddenly seized again by a powerful urge and composed a beautiful little phrase which ‘burst into flames ‘. In the middle of the many dirt floor boxes (doma) the noise of the fans of youthful neighbourhoods sounded, ‘zaa…’ I was expectantly determined and pledged to myself then that I would become another playwright. Near the Ichimuraza in Motochi we entered the entertainment district’s cheap soba noodle restaurant called Yabu which today, because I’m beyond middle aged and have a household I’m not allowed to go anymore, though it still remains strongly in my memory, and anyway I’d probably not get my seat. Because though I’ve forgotten many events during my entire lifetime this one is deeply etched on my memory and has had an unbelievably potent and deeply profound effect on me.
As well as the new productions, also sometimes the story of the two characters, Yajirōbē and Kitahachi in ‘Hizakurige’, clearly linger on in my memory. The role of Yajirōbē was played by Nakamura Tsuruzō and Kitahachi by Nakamura Dengorō. Nowadays amongst the many other actors their example and similarly difficult style of acting is emulated by everyone, especially that of the genial and innately comic actor, Tsuruzō. From the mysteriously puffed like eyelids under his face I could see that he was one of those who, though he carried on with his comic wit, to the very end his style of acting was cl-ea-rly that of a refined Kabuki actor, even though he also effortlessly appeared a little bit mischievous and funny. Nakazō III was Tsuruzō’s master, in the beginning employing Nakamura Ganya, Tsuruzō was also the name of a previous late great master, and it can be said with confidence that I really understood having someone in the role called Edo style clowning as a master. Certainly that Yajirōbē was the right and ideal Yajirōbē. I continuously and diligently enjoyed the role without any concern, then all over again for much longer I think I continued to be engrossed and in a state of amazement and in writing to Tsuruzō nineteen times I saw some success with the appearance of ten replies. Also after that I saw the play ‘Hizakurige’ frequently, also seeing more of Tsuruzō’s Yajirōbē, though a chance meeting with him didn’t take place. That following year at the Nakamuraza in Torigoe chō, in Asakusa he was chosen to play Sukehei and Kōbei in the drama ‘Igagoe’.
It was an intimately packed house and I needed my spectacles to see Sukehei. Thankfully seeing Kōbei was suitably not so much effort. Secondly it was the play ‘Kamiyui Shinza’ with landlord Chōbei’s affair, and I found out that Nakazō was duplicating the ascribed role of master Zempachi from Shinza the Barber (Kamiyui Shinza). What’s more at that time he was charming and intended to, and would, progress (in his acting career) by means of a steely determination, and was worthy, playing in the company’s rendition of the play Shinza. After all he probably wasn’t just a single comedy piece actor. To that extent isn’t it so the significance of comedy is that it’s also difficult to perform. Even now I continue to be an admirer of him as a performer. However in April 1890 Tsuruzō died. In the past he was an extremely diligent character though my child’s decision to perform as an actor didn’t result from this as karma! From an early age he was habitually play acting and holding his head high and such, though eventually, amongst other things, he astonishingly prepared for, became, and continues to practice as a lawyer.
Dengorō later went down to Ōsaka, interestingly Ganjirō approved. Dengorō had performed for one troupe for a long time and in the passing of those previous ten years a generation had passed. I wondered what kind of strange unknown acting might be found from going down to Ōsaka. My recollection of Dengorō’s performance bookings of forty years past wasn’t disagreeable. Back in the day Sagisuke was also a disciple of Nakazō. Many people at the time celebrated in a friendly and open hearted manner. After that, I can record in this documentary of the theatre’s long history that Dengorō played Kōmori Yasu in Kirare Yosa. The assignment of roles in Genjidana (Act III of Kirare Yosa) were Gennosuke as Otomi, previous generation Kakitsu as Yosarō, Kūzō (later Danzō) as Tazaemon. The Ichimuraza’s precious records were then available, and were viewed, on an inexact date, but there amongst them was the master transcript of Dengorō’s Kōmori Yasu, Matsusuke was still of yet a different, but better, kind of style (of acting). Matsusuke’s Kōmori Yasu was-more-subdued. From beginning to end there was his soft, coaxing voice, though it was said that this was an unpleasant thing. Tsuruzō and Dengorō both said it was unfortunate that an actor’s acting style shouldn’t be like this. Afterwards at another time I wrote about Shinzō’s story.
At this time I went in through the theatre entrance. My mother was also ushered in a little and the usher took some fruit offered to him as a gift. We contentedly gave perhaps between approximately fifty sen to one yen to others giving these favours with assurance. In those days it was inexpensive because at the most the cost for the fruit was a very reasonable fifteen to twenty sen, and it was customary that it was very much like that up until about the middle of the Meiji era (approximately 1890) though we continued to purchase it after this time. In the future too I would frequently go through the visitor’s entrance, a principle method I used to see an insufficient number of performances, though, as was our custom, we never accepted any favours from the usher.
Trevor Skingle was born and lives in London where he works in the field of Humanitarian Disaster Relief. He is a Japanophile and his hobbies are Kabuki, painting and drawing and learning Japanese.