Japanese kyōgen farce first time in Košice

The Little Kyōgen Theatre Brno, in cooperation with the European Capital of Culture – Košice 2013 and the State Theatre Košice – will present two Japanese farces, “Buaku” and “Boshibari”. “Each performance must meet three conditions – surprise the eye, please the ear and sound the heart…,” says Zeami Motokiyo.

“Buaku” is definitely one of the most valuable plays of the kyōgen genre. This near one-hour show is a brilliant example of the centuries-long symbiosis of the serious traditional noh theatre and kyōgen farce on one stage. “Buaku” copies noh play characteristics in its structure as well as its tragic atmosphere. At the very end, the audience are surprised by a truly unexpected denouement, unprecedented in other plays. The play is extremely demanding, and gives the actors a unique opportunity to show the depths of their performing arts and the spectators a chance to fully enjoy the true power of this ancient genre. The Kyoto-based Shigeyama family’s rendition of the play is a genuine delicacy and quite extraordinary viewing experience.

“Boshibari” (“Tied to a Pole”) farce is found in the earliest descriptions of kyōgen plays – “Tenrikyōgen bon” (mid 16th century), and also in the first draft of the “Toraakira bon” scenario (mid 17th century). From these facts, it can be deduced that this piece, in a simpler form, has been in the repertoire since the very beginning of the kyōgen genre (13th century). In the late 17th century, the entire “Boshibari” play was performed by the kabuki theatre and has been staged ever since, which demonstrates the popularity of the piece over time and across genres. The play is built on situational humour, with a lot of singing enriching the overall atmosphere. Their technical quality adds attractiveness to the otherwise very popular theme of the play. Also worth mentioning are the frequent parodies of short komai dances, which often accompanied a “cup of sake” in the amused society. Even in today’s Japan, “Boshibari” is one of the most popular and most frequently staged plays. It is in the repertoire of all theatre families who stage the kyōgen genre.



Kyōgen (meaning “mad words” or “artfully wild speech”) is a form of traditional Japanese comic theatre. It developed alongside the noh theatre from the originally Chinese sarugaku plays. This genre flourished in the mid 14th century, and has been staged in an unbroken tradition ever since. The word “kyōgen” itself is mostly understood as a term designating a separate comic theatre play, traditionally an intermission of sorts between noh acts.

Documents recording the existence of kyōgen farce come from 12th- to 13th-century Japan. The real climax of this genre occurred in the EDO period (1600-1868), when, due to the constant social demand for “ideal dramatic arts satisfying the cultural life of the samurai ruling class”, the kyōgen artists and performers had sufficient time and money to seamlessly improve the genre and their own acting techniques. Thus the resulting product is a comedy genre with the depth of acting practice and aesthetic means of expression much closer to European opera and classical music than to comedy as we know it in our cultural tradition. However, kyōgen is not just a historical relic of the Japanese Middle Ages. Due to its technical perfection, kyōgen could find a whole new audience in modern Japan. Since 2001, the kyōgen genre has been included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list as “Masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity”.


Little Kyōgen Theatre Brno

The ensemble was established on the initiative of Czech playwright, director and mime artist Hubert Krejčí, Japonologist Ondřej Hýbl and prominent representative of the traditional Kyoto school Ōkura of maestro Shigeyama Shime (inter alia, director of the Actor Association of Noh and Kyōgen Plays, laureate of the “Cultural Benefits to Kyoto Prefecture” and “Contribution to Maintaining the Traditional Culture of Kyoto” awards).

The Little Kyōgen Theatre (LKT) is devoted to study, implementation and performance of Japanese kyōgen farces in the Czech language. In a way, it is unique in the world. It is a long-term project of mutual cooperation between Czech and Japanese theatre professionals, supported by regular workshops, where a new play is always staged in the Czech language under the leadership of a Japanese maestro. The LKT is a unique theatre ensemble operating outside Japan, which is devoted to systematic cultivation of this traditional artistic genre.

One Response to Japanese kyōgen farce first time in Košice

  1. Hi,
    I am writing to ask where you got your information about Boshibari? I am a student at Goldsmiths University of London, currently writing a paper on the origins of shibari, and looking for history on the play. I do not see an author listed for this article, or any references. Would you be so kind as to guide me to any scholarly sources upon which you drew when writing this?

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