#Kabuki is the traditional dance-drama theatre of Japan known mostly for it’s elaborate make-up worn by the performers. Kabuki began in 1603 as a new form of entertainment performed by an all female cast portraying both men and women in short comic plays about ordinary life. It became very popular due to it’s ribald and suggestive themes added to the fact that many of the performers were working prostitutes. In 1629 female kabuki was banned as being to erotic and thus began the all male kabuki which we know today.
The lead actor in kabuki must be able to convey a wide range of emotions. These emotions are also expressed through the colours of their costumes. Gaudy and vivid hues convey foolishness or joy while harsh or muted colours convey seriousness and focus.
The dramatic stage makeup emphasises the actors emotions. Red for passion, heroism, and other positive traits. Blue or black eschew villainy, jealousy, and other bad traits while green is the colour of the supernatural and purple the colour of royalty.
Every kabuki actor takes a stage name. They are usually handed down from father to son and to following generations. These names hold great honour and are associated with certain roles or acting styles. Each new inheritor of the name must live up to the expectations embodied within that name. An actor might have three different names during his career.
The four woodcuts show kabuki actors in their dramatic makeup and poses which they became reknowned for.