It’s rare to see traditional Noh theatre outside of Japan, but even when you’re watching a performance in the flesh, it can be difficult to follow the story without adequate translation. Though it may not be a live show, this special performance of ‘Funa Benkei’, uploaded to Arts Council Tokyo’s YouTube channel, provides handy English subtitles so you won’t be lost trying to understand Japanese classical prose.
In this production set in the late Heian period (794-1185), military commander Minamoto no Yoshitsune must flee the capital after falling out with his brother, Yorimoto. Before his banishment, Yoshitsune was celebrated for his victory in the Genpei War, but the only companions he has by his side on his lonely journey to the west are his loyal retainer, Musashibo Benkei, and his lover, Shizuka Gozen.
Despite being centuries old, the story portrays a considerable amount of courage, anguish and longing as well as other burdens of the human experience that are still relevant today. Along with the video of the performance itself, there are also several clips highlighting each character’s state of mind during crucial moments. These important scenes are accompanied by chants and instruments which are essential to a Noh theatre production.
The video will be available online until March 31. You can read more about the stories and the performers here.
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