Narukami Thunder God (2 stars)

This article is from 2019

Narukami Thunder God

Uninspiring attempt at Kabuki for the Fringe

KabukiMa's vision – to present the Japanese theatrical form Kabuki to Western audiences in an adulterated form – is both admirable and frustrating. Accompanied by a lilting live score on Japanese flute and percussion, Narukami is a short script that incorporates tragedy and comedy, revolving around the conflicts between religion and state, carnal desire and spiritual austerity. The formal aspects of the style are in sharp contrast to the naturalistic bent of Western contemporary theatre, and gesture and expression are mannered, while the vocalisations are musical and closer to operatic recitation.

Unfortunately, the wholesale use of Kabuki dramaturgy leaves Narukami alienating. It is difficult to engage with the format and the cast aren't able to fully embrace the style. The script becomes an example of how it is the poetry of a text that is lost in translation: the charming gestures are undermined by a stilted delivery. Equally, the politics and context of the drama are lost, and the consistent pace – even the dramatic finale feels overly measured – denudes the plot of its dynamic tensions.

Narukami is a museum piece, or an introduction to Kabuki, but the lack of sensitivity to audience expectations, and the reverence afforded to its script, dramaturgy and style, defeat its purpose. The cast lack the authority to inhabit the characters, rendering the text a dull, polite shell and the emotions buried in the formality remain hidden.

theSpace on North Bridge, run ended.

Narukami Thunder God

  • 2 stars

KabukiMa Narukami Thunder God is a Japanese tale of deception, seduction and betrayal. This 17th-century classic of the kabuki theatre repertoire recounts a princess' quest to free the dragon god of rain from the clutches of a deranged monk. Kabuki is a traditional genre of Japanese theatre which combines ka (song), bu…