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by Geoff Jaeger
posted 11/08/2014

Just see Noh

Theatre of dreams, theatre of play is on exhibition now the Art Gallery of New South Wales, showcasing ”all the splendour, tradition and exacting harmony of a live nō performance.”

You can hear more about the exhibition by replaying Susie Lindeman’s Arts Friday program from 1 August, and listening to her interview with Alicia O’Reilly from the Art Gallery of NSW.

Nō mask Ko-omote, Edo period, 17th century National Noh Theatre

Nō mask Ko-omote, Edo period, 17th century
National Noh Theatre

This exhibition takes in pieces from both noh and kyōgen performance. The different genres of Japanese theatre each have a distinct history and set of conventions. Noh is the oldest, most formal style, with a production aesthetic and repertoire that has been preserved unaltered since the fourteenth century. Kabuki developed later, and is considered the showier, more star-driven form, less strict in its performance style. Kyōgen brings the comic element. Although also ancient, its stories are less grand, often telling of servants and peasants, and full of physical humour. Although noh is treated with the most reverence, each has its traditions, its devotees, and its own forms of artistic expression.

The exhibition features 165 works “from prestigious Japanese collections…never before…exhibited together outside… Japan.” This is the opportunity for a close-up view of the exceptional skill of master artisans whose samurai patrons spared no expense in their production.

”With a history spanning over 600 years, nō (or noh) is the oldest and most complex form of theatre in Japan. A prized artistic legacy from the age of the samurai, it is still practised in Japan today, almost unchanged.”

Nō mask Kasshiki (kokasshiki), Muromachi period, 16th century Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan

Nō mask Kasshiki (kokasshiki), Muromachi period, 16th century
Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan

Theatre of dreams, theatre of play is on exhibition until 14 September in the Lower Asian Gallery.

Tickets for adults are $10.00, with full ticket and concession details available here

Read more about the exhibition

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