|DATE NO J█YAKU|
|Play title||Haji Momiji Ase no Kaomise|
|Author||Tsuruya Nanboku IV|
The drama "Haji Momiji Ase no Kaomise", based on the "Meiboku Sendai Hagi" and the "Kasane" worlds, was premiered at the Kawarasakiza in the 7th lunar month of 1815, staring Ichikawa Danjűr˘ VII in ten hayagawari roles [casting]. His performance was a huge success but the play was no more performed and its script was lost up to the successful revival made by the star Ichikawa Ennosuke in April 1979 at the Meijiza [casting]. This revival was produced several times during the end of the 20th century. One of the highlights of the play is the confrontation on stage between the good Masaoka (always played by Ichikawa Ennosuke) and the evil Yashio. In January 2010, the ten roles were played at the Shinbashi Enbuj˘ by the young star Ichikawa Ebiz˘. In May 2014, it was the turn of Ichikawa Somegor˘.
The latest production of "Date no Jűyaku" (July 1999) was made up of 4 acts and 10 scenes. Here is a table with the different scenes and the roles played by the same actor:
Fukkatsu T˘shi Ky˘gen Jűhachiban
The July offering at the Kabukiza was a treat for Kabuki lovers. July is Ennosuke month at this theater and this is the 29th year he has given this special performance. As usual, the program was packed with excitement. In particular, the evening show featured Ennosuke in "Date no Jűyaku" carrying out 47 quick changes of costume while transforming back and forth between 10 roles-male and female, young and old, villainous and heroic-in addition to doing his trademark chűnori stunt, in which he flies over the heads of the audience on wires to the top floor of the theater. This play was first written in 1815, but was left unperformed until 1979, when Ennosuke revived it and made it into one of the classics of his special brand of acting. Only two other actors have performed this role in the play's history because of its gruelling nature.
Ennosuke announced earlier this year that this would probably be the last time he performed this play in his career because of the physical toll that it takes on him. He has appeared in it nine times in total, the last time being seven years ago. To do these quick role changes, he has to scurry under the stage floorboards, clamber up ladders, run from backstage to the lobby and back, and also speak in one character's voice backstage while his assistants are helping to change his costume to that of another character. I thought I knew most of the tricks he uses, but I was still stumped this time by some of the complete changes, from the tabi socks right up to the wig and makeup, executed in just a few seconds. The rousing applause he received at the end of each four-hour show, and the full-house standing ovation on the final night were a tribute to the sheer skill and entertainment value of this extraordinary man and his performance.
The story of "Date no Jűyaku" is extremely complicated, but in brief it revolves around the plot of a group of conspirators led by Nikki Danj˘ to murder the young son of Lord Ashikaga Yorikane and take over the wealthy clan for themselves. The play is based on a real event involving the Date clan of Sendai during the 1660's, but censorship prevented contemporary incidents being dramatized, so the drama was set during the Muromachi period (1336-1568), and names were changed to disguise the protagonists' identity. The story will further unfold as Ennosuke's 10 roles are outlined:
Text courtesy of Jean Wilson (July 1999)
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