R.I.P.: Bando Mitsugoro X

Above is the short Kabuki play ‘Chatsubo,’ adapted from the kyogen play of the same title. It stars two of my favourite Kabuki actors: Nakamura Kanzaburo XVIII (then Nakamura Kankuro V) as the servant carrying the tea, and Bando Mitsugoro X (then Bando Yasosuke V) as the comic thief. (Nakamura Kyozo plays the passing magistrate)

These two actors were seen as the future of Kabuki, and indeed they very much were. Kanzaburo went on to both start Cocoon Kabuki, an experimental Kabuki series that either revived old plays for contemporary audiences or staged new plays, and his Heisei Nakamura-za, temporary theatres that captured the informal intimacy of Kabuki as it was in the Edo times. Mitsugoro went on to be head of the Bando school of Buyo, one of the biggest buyo schools in Japan. Kanzaburo was a superb thespian, able to breath in life to even the stiffest plays, and Mitsugoro was one of the most precise dancers in Kabuki I’ve seen.

In 2012 Kanzaburo died, and Mitsugoro was viewed as the leader of what would be kabuki’s next generation of elders. But earlier this month, he died. It’s a great blow to Kabuki, and that’s another actor I love whom I’m never going to be able to see perform in person.

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