Behind The Scenes At The Kabuki Theatre

CRAFT: Behind-the-scenes at the Kabuki Theatre

Photographer Frederic Aranda gives us a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of some of Japan’s biggest kabuki stars as they prepare to perform. Here Aranda picks his favourite shots and gives us an insight into the magical world of kabuki theatre.

Waiting in the wings: Kabuki star Ichikawa Ebizō XI prepares for his entrance as romantic villain Yoeman in the dance drama Kasane. Yoemon is a dispossessed samurai and although seemingly gentle, his rough hairstyle suggests to the audience a sinister and violent nature.

Getting into character: Preparing for a performance is a painstaking process – one that requires time and skill. Here, Ichikawa Ebizō applies the final layer of white makeup traditional for female roles.

The artists table: Kabuki makeup, or ‘keshō’, is a complicated affair. Base oils and waxes, white face powder, powdered rouge and a range of coloured highlights are applied with liners, brushes, pads and sponges.

Ichikawa Kamejirō II making up: On top of the oil base, wax is often applied to facial hair to smooth it out before the white makeup, and coloured highlights are painted on.

The stage of ‘Twelfth Night’: Set designs in Ninagawa Yukio’s productions are often exquisite. Here, Onoe Kikunosuke V as Sebastian crosses a pair of elegant bridges in a Japanese garden filled with blossoms.

Dressing Ebizō: Several assistants help the actors get into costume as heavy, complex clothing makes dressing alone impossible. Here, assistants help tie the heavy obi sash required to play the role of the wisteria maiden.

Ebizō in the ‘Wisteria Maiden’: Moments before the curtain rises, black-clad stage assistants, or ‘kurogo’, help with the finishing touches.

Backstage at Sadler’s Wells: Dressed and ready for his entrance, Kamejirō prepares to take to the stage in London. Contrasting with his modern surroundings, Kamejirō’s costume honours the work’s premiere in 1823.

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