No (Nogaku) is one of the oldest Japanese theaters. It flourished in the 14th century, when the Zen Buddhist sect appeared. Originally, the genre was part of a religious ritual.
But - one of the classic Japanese types of theater. He owes his appearance to Kiyotsugu Kanami, the head of the theater troupe that entertained the royal court. He was a very creative person. On the basis of the already existing sarugaku style, which combined acrobatic performances, pantomime and clownish dances, Kanami at the beginning of the 15th century created a new, more serious theatrical performance called "no."
The theater quickly gained popularity in Japan, especially among the military and aristocrats. Usually the performances took place in Buddhist and Shinto temples, they were held on the occasion of the holidays. The plots of the performances were borrowed from folk tales. Soon the theater received recognition in the West as well.
Features of the stage and performances
The performances of the no theater are a fusion of dramatic action, words, dance, pantomime, music, rhythm, noises and rustles, singing, recitative and specific shouts. It is original and bears little resemblance to the musical performances familiar to many.
Initially, the stage was located in the open air, in the courtyards of temples. Sometimes performances had to be interrupted due to rain. Only in the 17th century, performances began to take place in the hall. However, even the closed stage space has retained its original structure, since the racks, walkways, roof and partitions are inseparable from the very idea of the no theater. So, the columns serve as a reference point for the dancers, because because of the masks they see almost nothing.
The stage is not decorated in any way, there are no decorations. The floor is carefully waxed so that the actors can move in small sliding steps.
The full program of the no theater consists of five dramatic plays and four kyogen (comedy scenes) in between and lasts 8-10 hours. Because modern audiences are impatient, no theater schools present a shorter program. It consists of four, three or even one piece.
The Taetra characters have very rich outfits. They are sewn from expensive fabrics, brocade and silk. The costumes are bright. They are embroidered with gold thread.
All roles in the theater are played by men. Actors playing women or mystical characters wear masks. In this case, the timbre remains the same, only manners and gestures change.
Orchestra and choir
An important role in the theater is played by the orchestra, which consists of a flute and four drums. They are played both with hands and with sticks.
The choir consists of 6-8 people. He plays the role of "talking scenery", describing the places where the action takes place. The chorus also talks to the actors and sings instead of the main character when he dances. The singers' screams create a dramatic effect, their intensity varying with the intensity of the action. Such shouts surprise the unprepared viewer.