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1927: Japanese Noh way recital

A Noh Play Stage used for traditional Japanese public entertainment

Literary Society, Dramatic Recital by a Japanese lady

Something out of the ordinary in dramatic recitals was given under the auspices of the Cuckfield Literary Society, at the Queen's Hall, Cuckfield. last Tuesday evening, when Miss Musmé Watanabé, a Japanese lady, presented a selection of 'Plays and Noh Plays of Japan'. There was a large attendance.

The Rev Canon CWG Wilson presided, and fittingly introduced Miss Watanabé.

Prior to her recital. Miss Watanabé, who was accorded a hearty reception, said that the Japanese had always had an extensive knowledge of literature, but illustrations of native literature in England were very rare. This was because the translation from Japanese into English so difficult. She was that evening, however, going to give them two plays translated by Mr Arthur Waley of the British Museum.

An interesting fact concerning Japanese poetry was that it had developed on a high level, and many Emperors and several Empresses of Japan had become famous poets. As regards the theatres in Japan, there was a great difference between the Japanese and European houses of entertainment. If one wanted to see a play in Japan one had to rise early, for the performance began at 6am and continued all day, there usually being from twelve to twenty acts, (Laughter). In order to save time in changing the scenes, a revolving stage was used. This device was introduced, long before it was ever heard of in Europe. Another feature of some Japanese theatres, which had not been adopted in the West, was the thoughtful provision by the management of a tear room.


This enabled people overcome with emotion to go and have a good cry. (Laughter). In what was known as the popular theatres historical drama was the principal fare. The plays known as 'Noh plays' were performed in private theatres to the aristocracy and people of culture. They were produced in a magnificent manner, and some of the costumes worn were seven hundred years old and were priceless.

These plays were usually short, but the literary standard was exceptionally high. In commencing her recital, Miss Watanabé brought to the fore a delightful Japanese legend named 'Damurma' which was followed by an amusing Japanese ghost story entitled 'The Love Test'. Next came a Noh play, 'Kanton - a Pillow Tale', which went to show that life is but a dream.

A Japanese tragedy, in two scenes, was depicted in another Noh play, entitled 'The Valley Hurling'. In conclusion, the talented lady gave a merry story entitled 'The Tale of the Jellyfish and the Monkey', she being enthusiastically applauded at the close.

Miss Watanabé is lady of much charm and her elocution is a delight to the ear. She wore appropriate Japanese costumes during her recital. At intervals Mrs. Glenister rendered pianoforte selections, which were much appreciated.

The Chairman expressed the gratitude of the audience to Miss Watanabé for her recital and also to Mrs Glenlster for her pianoforte selections. (Applause). The Vicar stated that for one hundred years Japan had kept herself to herself, but, startled everyone by easily defeating Russia in the Russo-Japanese war. In the Great War, Japan became one of the Allies, and he hoped that Japan would see eye to eye with Britain and help to maintain the peace of the world. (Applause).

The next meeting of the Society will be on November 29, when Mr CP Cook of Brighton will give a lantern lecture entitled 'Flemish Art from Van Eyck to Rubens'.

Mid Sussex Times, 22 November 1927.

Photo: A Noh Play Stage. - a traditional Japanese public entertainment. Wikimedia public domain image.

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.


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