What is Night of the Kabukimono?
Kabukimono (歌舞伎者) wander the streets, seeking an audience to join their new experiments in the underworld theatre, full of bizarre costumes and outlandish performances. Finding the streets empty on this spring night in Osaka, in the year 1743, the Kabukimono troupe (finally) finds an empty building, a title above the door – Damhuskroen-za. The Damhuskroen Theatre. Keeping their senses alert for Samurai who might be in the area, they sneak into the theatre to discover a perfect place to hold their performances, a strange yet welcoming venue, and they begin to decorate, and prepare their show. Soon, it is opening night and passer-bys have begun to take notice of the work being done at the Dam Hus Kro-za.
Commoners, samurai, farmers, artists, geishas, and all levels and genders of society allow their curiosity to overrule the social structure, and enter the theatre. They realize this is unlike the other Kabuki theatres popping up around Japan, rather, this is a participatory theatre where everyone joins and performs their own tale with their own characters. Everyone must participate in this kaleidoscope of excessive performances. Upon entering, they are told the secrets of the theatre, and they rejoice: it’s a chance to explore a new persona. Thus, they become their personas, and decorate their faces and bodies, expressing their new persona’s nature: passionate and righteous red, jealous and nefarious blues, supernaturally powered green, and noble purple. They put on their ornate, beautiful, thoughtful, outlandish, bizarre, grotesque. They rehearse their poses and their lines and prepare.
The scene is set, the audience becomes actors, and the play begins: A wild and unpredictable exploration of everyday interactions, of great samurai battles, of enchanting geisha tales, an exploration of self. This theatre pushes the boundaries of what Kabuki has been and could ever be – for everyone joins in, and everyone is an actor, for just one night.
In the morning, exhausted and exhilarated, the participants leave the theatre, and turn around to take one last look, to discover a pile of ashes where the theatre had been moments before. No smoke, no smell of fire… had they imagined it all? Rubbing their tired eyes, they look at their hands, and see the vibrant reds, blues, greens and purple from their makeup. No, this was a truer night than all others.
Photography: Mads Høbye
Art direction: Malene Habroe and Mads Høbye
Graphic design: Malene Habroe
Model: Luciano Foschi