Continuing its celebration of its fortieth anniversary, the National Theatre will
do the first production of a kabuki play in 166 years, a play full of chills and
thrills and wild spectacle. In 1827, when audiences went to see
"Hitori Tabi Gojűsan Tsugi" (Traveling Alone to the Fifty-three Stations),
by the famous playwright Tsuruya Nanboku IV (1755~1829) they expected a Kabuki
version of the bestselling comic novel about the adventures of Yaji and Kita on
the road. What they got instead was a spectacular series of scenes scary, sexy
and comic reworking all Nanboku's favorite themes including a monstrous cat and
changing one of the most famous mother and son couples in Kabuki, keeping the
names but changing what they do drastically, transforming them into a pair of
adult lovers. The play was a long-running hit and inspired many plays with
spectacular scenic effects.
In 1835, a group of playwrights including Nanboku's son, Tsuruya Nanboku V reworked
this play, keeping the monstrous cat but adding a renegade priest who mastered rat
magic and a famous thief named Nezumi Koz˘ ("Kid Rat"). Then they worked old
Tsuruya Nanboku's transformative magic on the passionate grocer's daughter Oshichi,
making her into Sayoginu Oshichi and bringing the handsome young samurai Shirai
Gonpachi and his lover, the courtesan Komurasaki, into the mix as well.
The play starred Onoe Kikugor˘ III (1784~1849)
and featured the ghosts and stage tricks that he had developed with
Tsuruya Nanboku that had made his career.
In January 2007 at the National Theatre, Living National Treasure Onoe Kikugor˘ will revive
this version of the play for the first time and challenge himself with the
spectacular scenes and famous roles from the earliest times of his family's acting
tradition. Also starring Living National Treasure Sawamura Tanosuke, Band˘ Hikosabur˘, Nakamura Tokiz˘,
Band˘ Mitsugor˘, Onoe Sh˘roku and Onoe Kikunosuke.
Source: Earphone Guide website