Japenese Noh Theatre first began in Japan in the 14th Century. • It was originally thought to have been connected to Buddhist and Shinto rituals. • Noh is always performed on a special kind of stage. • There are only five schools that train Noh actors in the whole of Japan and each one has its own style. • In 1647, a law was passed that said that each school could not change its traditions. • Actors wear complex masks and costumes. • Japenese Noh actors are always male. Actors have to come from acting families. They play only one of five roles. Actors move and talk very slowly. They always wear masks and costumes. Actors train from being four or five years old. The masks are made from wood. Actors are taught special gestures. The plays last for five or six hours. The audience usually know the plot already.
The Noh Mask Effect: A Facial Expression Illusion • The full-face masks worn by skilled actors in Japanese Noh drama can induce a variety of perceived expressions with changes in head orientation. Rotation of the head out of the visual plane changes the two dimensional image characteristics of the mask which viewers may misinterpret as non-rigid changes due facial muscle action. The figure below shows the same Edo-period Noh mask, Magojiro, at three inclinations.
Kabuki is the most famous of the forms of Japanese theatre. Spoken and sung in 'old Japanese', even the Japanese themselves find it difficult to understand. It is a little like a Japanese version of Shakespeare performed at the opera and the performances last a number of hours. The word 'kabuki' is made of three characters in Japanese: 'ka' meaning 'songs', 'bu' meaning 'dance' and 'ki' meaning 'skill'. • Unlike Noh Theatre, Kabuki actors don’t wear masks but they do wear very complex and dramatic make-up. The colours and styles of the make-up show whether the character is good or evil. The revolving stage and trapdoors mean that impressive entrances and exits occur throughout the performance. • The stage for the Kabuki Theatre is very unusual in design.