Hell Screen

Hell Screen
a kabuki play by Yukio Mishima
onstage January 7th - 17th in Tokyo

Original author / Ryunisuke Akutagawa
Playwright / Yukio Mishima
Director / Yukikazu Kanou

The terrifying legend of the Hell Screen, a fabulous multi-paneled painting of the hideous realms of Hell, was first told in story form by Ryunosuke Akutagawa and then written for the kabuki stage by Yukio Mishima, Japan’s most famous postwar novelist and playwright. It tells the tragic tale of two powerful men, both arrogant and cruel, and the innocent woman caught between them.

STORY: In the ancient imperial capital of Kyoto, the high state minister Lord Horikawa reigns supreme, his ferocity striking terror into the hearts of all who serve him. One of these is the maiden Tsuyukusa, who has had the pluck to spurn his lordship’s lewd advances, and is forbidden to leave his service, despite repeated pleas. Tsuyukusa is the devoted only child of the most famous painter in the land, Yoshihide, an overweening man of enormous talent and conceit. Horikawa has ordered him to paint the world’s most dreadful depiction of Hell on a six-paneled screen, realistically rendering all its gruesome torments, for his lordship’s pleasure. To this end, Yoshihide has tortured his disciples as models for his painting, but is unable to finish the screen for lack of an inspiration for its central panel, on which he plans to portray a beautiful aristocratic maiden trapped in her gorgeous carriage, twisting and writhing in the agonizing flames of Hell. Lest the screen remain unfinished, Yoshihide challenges Horikawa to provide a model for this scene from amongst the many serving ladies in his employ, and to imprison her inside a fancy carriage and set it on fire. Even the depraved Horikawa is shocked by this request. But then he sees it as a way to punish the artist for his scornful pride. Who will be the maiden most suited to the job? As her horrific, fiery death takes place, Horikawa watches in sadistic fascination, while Yoshihide paints.

KABUKI is Japan’s most popular traditional theatre, with a history of over 400 years from its founding by a female dancer in Kyoto. It became an all-male form when women were later banned from the stage, and swiftly developed into a sophisticated, richly stylized theatre and a social center for the oppressed urban classes under the strict feudal regime. Kabuki still maintains its lush traditional form, with its lively music and spectacular staging, alongside more modern-style plays developing since the 20th century.

HANAGUMI SHIBAI was founded in 1987 expressly to revive traditional Japanese performing arts as contemporary entertainment. The young men who make up the company are trained in orthodox kabuki dance and locution, including the art of onnagata female roles, and base their renegade style on a thoroughly classical grounding. In the original spirit of populist kabuki, Hanagumi expands indigenous forms to embrace the new and different in a large repertoire of both classical and modern plays. With wide appeal to a varied fan base, over its history Hanagumi has transfigured dozens of stories from kabuki, myth and melodrama, and from classics East and West.

Dates: January 7th - 17th 2021
Theatre: Nakameguro Kinkero-Theatre, Tokyo
Tickets: advance Y6500 (25 or under Y4000, Meguro Ward residents or workers Y6000),
door Y6900 (25 or under Y4400, Meguro Ward residents or workers Y6400)
All seats reserved. ID required for youth or Meguro tickets.
English synopsis provided.

Live streaming “Hell Screen” (a kabuki play by Yukio Mishima) on January 12th. Full-stage view, two shows, 2 pm (A cast) and 7 pm (B cast). Online tickets 3500 yen, on sale 12 pm Dec. 9 to 9 pm Jan. 18.

Click here for tickets.

Streaming-plus user's guide

For info contact HANAGUMI SHIBAI office@hanagumi.ne.jp