Sunday, October 30, 2011

Butoh and the noh play 'Ohara Goko'

In describing her vision of our performance 'Offering: Traveling into a Dream', butoh dancer Shinjo described an elderly woman bitter because she has nothing to offer visitors to her tiny cottage. By sheer coincidence, Shinjo's vision for the performance was very similar to the noh play I'd been translating all week, 'Ohara Goko'. In the play, based on the final chapter (the Initiates Chapter) of the Heike Monogatari, the retired Emperor visits the former Empress. Once the mother to the Emperor, she has seen her clan defeated, her family first decimated then annihilated, her brothers hunted down and executed, and she has witnessed the suicide by drowning of her mother and her seven year old son. After her suicide attempt is thwarted, she becomes a nun and moves to an extremely small hermitage in the hills north of Kyoto. Now dressed in the severe habit of a nun, she tells the visiting retired Emperor the story of her life. The play is filled with a rare poignance, as was 'Offering'.

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