The finale of the festival celebrated a triple bill of a classical Noh masterpiece, and two UK premieres with mesmerising line-ups:
1. Kurozuka (Black Mound)
The classical Noh masterpiece – also known as Adachigahara – is one of three kijōmono or onibaba (“demoness” Noh pieces) that use the iconic Hannya female demon Noh masks. In a story redolent with natural imagery and Buddhist philosophy, an old woman hosts a travelling monk for the night but, in anger, she transforms into a fierce demon when he disobeys her orders not to see her bedroom.
2. Two Moths in Real Time
Thick & Tight gave the world premiere of the full performance of following the highly acclaimed preview performance at the Barbican Centre in early 2022.
The piece is inspired by the rhythms, structure, choreography, and metaphysical philosophy found in Noh and Kyogen. Through the study of queer culture and queer ecology in the UK and Japan, Thick & Tight consider how the term ‘unnatural’ is often applied to behaviors of the LGBTQ+ community to create divisions around who belongs in our interconnected world.
Costume design by Tim Spooner. (World Premiere)
3. Hengenka 2022
Hengenka was originally composed in 2017 and premiered at the National Noh Theatre in Tokyo. Isso has drastically rewritten the piece with dance artist Thick & Tight and the recorder player Piers Adams. (UK premiere)
‘Dance of the maeshite (five 7- measures for each round)’
Enchanted by a strange piece of odd-time music. The God of Music, a mysterious old man appears (maeshite or main character of the first half), He is convinced of the importance of music by the mysterious tunes and rhythms that he hears.
‘Sambaso in 12-beat measures’
Thick & Tight dances to the rhythm of Sambaso (famous ancient divine dance in Noh, praying for a bountiful harvest) as two moths. While the original Sambaso is in 8-beat measures, Isso created this piece in 12-beat measures inspired by flamenco.
‘Deep Mountain Illusion’
The nochishite (main character of the second half), appears as a woman who has suffered in her life. She was hiding in the deepest mountains, and chants, ‘Making the journey across mountains to mountains, making the journey across mountains to mountains, she disappears (a phrase from the Noh piece Yamanba) As she tries to emerge from the darkness, she searches & travels to the east, where the sun rises. Despite her sufferings, she has not lost her faith. Her strong desire and her power to live prevails. This woman may have been the God of Music herself. Reality is in dream and dream is in reality. Improvisational performances by the flute and recorder, progressive rock-like textures, and a tihai style (Indian classical cadence) ending are the notable points of interest.
About Piers Adams (Recorder Player)
Piers Adams is one of the greatest recorder players of our age, recognised for his “astonishing, all-out virtuosity” (New York Times), breadth of repertoire and uniquely compelling style, boldly transcending traditional limitations and presenting the recorder as a major-league instrument for the 21st century concert platform. https://piersadams.com/recorder-roadshow