Master Gives Tips for Amateurs to Enjoy Noh
Point 1: Do a little preparation beforehand to become familiar with the story.
Despite the commonality of emotion, if you go to see Noh without knowing anything about the story, you might be lost in the middle of performance. Even when you go to see a movie, which is a graphic and easy form of art, you would probably take a brief glance at the ads in advance. Otoshige Sakai said, “If you take a quick look at the general storyline or the key message of the piece, you will enjoy the performance more.” A little easy preparation will help you to share the feelings with and receive a clearer message from the Noh performers. The storylines of Noh in English can be downloaded free here:
By the way, do you know that there are five categories of Noh performance? They are “gods,” “men,” “women,” “insanity” and “demons.” The stories in the god category signify peace, happiness and bumper crops to us. In the category of men, ghosts and the dead appear, while the theme of women features agony stemming from love. In many cases, the women category describes tragic love in which female ghosts drift freely with unfulfilled feelings of love. In “insanity,” the stories depict madness as a result of severe mental derangement. Due to the nature of this, this category is sometimes called “craziness.” In the last category, spiritual beings like demons, long-nosed goblins and fairies show up to perform in a conspicuous manner. Originally, all these five categories were performed in order at one time. Today, however, not everything is included in the same performance to keep things short. The knowledge of these categories and themes would also help you to enjoy Noh.
Noh performance illustrates such scenes as gods bringing peace to people or human beings disturbed and struggling, and women suffering from love. Of course these are not typical only to the Japanese. The messages of “peace, distress and love” are eternal, universal themes for any human being. Otoshige Sakai said, “If you know that Noh is a projection of the psyche of normal human beings, it would help you to share the common denominator between you and the performer’s suppressed minimal movements, which represent 15th-century messages. This way of looking would break the barrier between Noh and you, the audience.”
Point 2. Focus on one tiny element.
The second secret to enjoy Noh is not to try understanding everything. You don’t have to capture the entire picture. If you try to understand the performance logically, it is almost the same as reading an encyclopedia, which may be packed with information but would be difficult and boring. Instead, locate one little aspect of the production with which you feel a connection, for example, a gorgeous costume, the performer’s straight-backed posture, the sounds of the backing chorus, the distinctive suriashi sliding step, or the structure of stage to which a bridge-like walkway with a railing is attached. Anything is fine. Once you find a tiny lovely element that interests you, Noh will become an exciting theater.