Today I had to go out into deepest darkest Saitama, to help with the preparation for a Kyogen performance and accompanying lecture. Kyogen, which translates literally as wild speech, is a form of comedic Japanese theatre (traditionally performed as accompanying light relief to the more stylised Noh), and as I had yet to see any since arriving in Japan I was very much looking forward to the performance. The same could not be said about the lecture, which I was expecting to be a dry account of the history of Kyogen, from which I would no doubt glean very little. I turned out to be very pleasantly surprised, as not only did I understand about 70% of what was said, but it was more of an interactive workshop than a lecture, the highlight of which being when the 400 strong audience were instructed how to ‘act’ like mushrooms; at least that’s what my motivation was.
As for the Kyogen itself, well it was certainly visually stimulating. Almost all of the dialogue was lost on me, simply because I feel chanting to be the least effective method of communication to foreigners, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the performance as a whole. I think today’s event had been set up as an introduction to Kyogen, as it was mercifully short (an hour and a half including break), and incorporated an additional introduction (the comprehension of which I again surprised myself with) to go alongside the earlier lecture. If nothing else then traditional Japanese theatre has certainly been honing my own acting skills, as my ability to appear engaged and laugh realistically on demand is now second to none.