ASIJ TV: Kyogen Performance

Article by Aryaman Singh, Writer

Reading Time: 2 minutes

A staple of Japanese Nohgaku theatre, Kyogen are short comedic plays that describe the lives of ordinary people in medieval Japan. While Noh plays are more intense in their subject matter and performances, Kyogen plays use humor and irony to depict common traits among all people.?

Storylines often revolve around ordinary interactions between master and servant, husband and wife, and thief and simple-minded peasant. Innocent mistakes result in funny complications, with ironic and relatable consequences.?

Even though the stories are set over 500 years ago, modern audiences can still relate to the stories depicted. Common themes include misinterpreted instructions, conjugal disagreements, and willful deception. Through these short plays, Kyogen pokes fun at human inadequacies and urges the viewer to not take themselves too seriously, and find the funny in their own lives.?

A key component of a Kyogen performance is the dialogue, as much of the humor originates from interactions between the characters. Hence, the actors must have a great command over their voice to ensure that even the audience members seated farthest away can hear them clearly.?

Another important aspect that the audience will appreciate is the use of movement to accelerate the plot. The actors often employ exaggerated versions of everyday movement like laughter, crying and dipping sake that walk the fine line between funny and mere slapstick. Another unique physical aspect is the stance. Actors are expected to maintain a fundamental stance throughout the performance, with their body bent forward and hips pushed backwards.?

Being a visual medium, Kyogen performances place an emphasis on costumes and clothing. Actors wear traditional Japanese attire that corresponds to their roles. For example, members of the samurai class wear broad-sleeved suits, lending them dignity, while manor lords wear Kataginu vests. These costumes also serve as important comedic devices, as their bright colors and playful designs often reflect the sunny disposition of their wearers.?

Each year, the Kyogen activity gives interested High School students the opportunity to learn this vibrant art form, and share their passion with the rest of the ASIJ community by putting on a production of traditional plays.?

Tune in at the link above?at 3:05 p.m. on 22 February to see the members of Kyogen stage insightful and funny plays, complete with energetic performances and colorful costumes.