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Kanami’s Wind in the Pines Heading to Canada

By Mark Buckton

SNA (Tokyo) — Once described as the oldest form of masked theatre in the world, Noh has a history that stretches back in current form to the 14th and 15th centuries; even earlier if you consider its predecessors.

As is, however, modern Japanese Noh is an almost exclusively male discipline of theatre in which actors never rehearse together, but rather come together as well-practiced individuals on the day a play is to be performed, to engage in what is essentially a one-off event. It is only the senior-most actor on stage at any point that wears the famed mask that so identifies Noh.

In modern Japan it is still incredibly easy to see Noh performances up and down the country by both professional and amateur groups—the Kanze Theater in Shibuya or the National Noh Theater in Sendagaya being perhaps the easiest to access.

For overseas theatre fans, things are much more difficult, but, for those on the west coast of Canada between August 28th and September 2nd, the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival will offer the opportunity to see Noh live, and in person for just $11 a head.

The play to be performed — Wind in the Pines — is a classic in the Noh repertoire, written by the founder of Noh, Kanami, and modified by his son. It is often performed in Japan.

But there is a twist: When it makes its way across the Pacific, and in what could be a historical first for this play, the cast will consist entirely of women — Joyce Ishii, Misaki Hotaka, and Ayumi Hamada, contemporary Japanese actresses.

Centering on the story of two women in the Japanese countryside who died of grief following the departure for the capital of a man they both loved, “Matsukaze” as it is called in Japanese, is not one to miss for theatrical types or anyone with a passion for Japanese culture. That it is to be performed by women makes it all the rarer still!

Mark Buckton is a contributing writer to the Shingetsu News Agency.