What To Look Out For: Noh Reimagined 2024, Kings Place

Curated and produced by Akiko Yanagisawa (Mu Arts) in partnership with Kings Place, Noh Reimagined festival unwraps the art of Noh, the iconic theatrical tradition that originated in fourteenth-century Japan.
A snapshot of Sumidagawa. All photos courtesy of Premier Comms.
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What To Look Out For: Noh Reimagined 2024, Kings Place

1. A new retelling of a Noh classic

Noh Reimagined 2024 begins with Sumidagawa, written by Kanze Motomasa in the fifteenth century and widely regarded as one of the most renowned Noh plays of all time. This timeless tale of love and loss tells the story of a mother whose son has been kidnapped, and the journey she embarks upon which ultimately ends in despair. The play has inspired many artists over the years, including Benjamin Britten for his opera Curlew River which was premiered exactly 60 years ago this month.

From Sumidagawa.

The story is still inspiring artists and writers to this day. As well as being able to experience this masterpiece of traditional Japanese theatre, beforehand audiences will also hear a newly written English re-telling of the story, A Tale of the Sumida River, co-written by a British storyteller Xanthe Gresham Knight and dramaturg Gareth Mattey.  The environmental sounds in the production was recorded by an electronic-acoustic composer Carlos Davey on-site along the modern Sumida river.

Blending the contemporary with the traditional, the first night of the Festival is not to be missed! It’s also a rare opportunity to see this play, as this performance at Kings Place is only one of two in the UK.

2. A chance to meet the Noh performers

Experience a memorable evening as you meet nine Noh performers! You’ll have the chance to chat with some of the most esteemed performers from Japan, including Mikata Shizuka, right after they’ve come off stage in Sumidagawa. If there’s anything you’ve ever wanted to know about Noh theatre, here’s your opportunity to ask some of the best performers of the art form in the world.  

From Sumidagawa.

3. Learn the art of Noh in workshops

As well as being able to watch the performances, at Noh Reimagined festival you can also learn how to perform this wonderful traditional art form! We’re running three workshops on Saturday.  Two Noh movement workshops, run by four shite actors of the Kanze School, will focus on Noh plays Atsumori and Kinuta. A music workshop led by prominent kotsuzumi (shoulder drum) player Tatsuhi Narita joined by flute, and hip drum as well as a chant will offer hands-on teaching using two iconic scenes from Kinuta.

Discover the essence of movement and self-expression in our Introduction to Noh Movement workshop, take part in a creative movement session where you’ll have the opportunity to create short choreographed pieces of your own, or participate in a hands-on workshop to learn the unique rhythm, pitch, kakegoe (drum call) and orchestration of Noh music.

From Throne of Blood.

4. Discover a Japanese retelling of Shakespeare

Did you know that there’s a classic Japanese film based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth? Transposing the action from Scotland to sixteenth-century Japan, 1957 film Throne of Blood manages to combine beauty and terror to produce a mood of truly haunting power. Co-written and directed by Akira Kurosawa and with influences from Noh theatre, the film also features stellar performances from Toshiro Mifune as the doomed warlord Washizu and Isuzu Yamada as the Lady Macbeth-inspired Asaji. Come along to a special screening in Kings Place’s Hall One, where Dr Dolores P. Martinez will also introduce the film.

From Kinuta.

5. See Zeami Motokiyo’s final and greatest play  

For the closing event of Noh Reimagined 2024, we present a performance of Zeami Motokiyo’s final and greatest play, Kinuta – a tragedy that portrays the agony of a wife who believes she has been abandoned by her husband, leading to her death. However, due to her husband’s love, she is saved.  

Zeami Motokiyo is a hugely important figure in Noh theatre, establishing Noh of the current style almost 600 years ago. Along with his plays, he also wrote many books on Noh, including Fūshikaden, believed to be the first known treatise on drama in Japan. He also received much acclaim for establishing the style of Mugen Noh, which involves dream states or visions intersecting with the present: which he then blends with Genzai Noh (events in the real world) in Kinuta.

This is the perfect opportunity to see many traditions of Noh theatre come together in what is sure to be a memorable and emotional performance.

Noh Reimagined runs at Kings Place in London from 21-22 June: tickets and more information can be found on the Kings Place website. Sumidagawa is also performed at the Aldeburgh Festival on 18 June.

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