Prepare to see ‘Star Wars’ as you never have before– as a kabuki performance. Kabuki is known for its elaborate, stylized makeup and dance-style movements. Japan’s most acclaimed kabuki performer, Ichikawa Ebizo XI, stars as Kylo Ren, with the lightsabres redesigned into samurai swords. This performance is dubbed ‘Star Wars Kabuki-Rennosuke and the Three Light Sabers’, and mixes elements from the three most recent films with storylines “drawn from the days of feudal clan rivalry.” (Per The Guardian) The performance was streamed live, but there was a 50-person audience in attendance. Those audience members were selected from a fan lottery.
As Ichikawa expressed via a statement:
“[It] will depict the sagas of love and loss for the Skywalker family that stretch back more than 40 years. It will be a show that both Star Wars fans and kabuki fans will enjoy.”
You can watch ‘Star Wars Kabuki-Rennosuke and the Three Light Sabers’ below:
George Lucas drew inspiration for ‘A New Hope’ from Akira Kurosawa’s 1958 film ‘The Hidden Fortress’. Via Entertainment Weekly:
“I remember the one thing that really struck me about ‘The Hidden Fortress’, the one thing I was really intrigued by, was the fact that the story was told from the two lowest characters. I decided that would be a nice way to tell the Star Wars story. Take the two lowliest characters, as Kurosawa did, and tell the story from their point of view. Which, in the Star Wars case is the two droids, and that was the strongest influence. The fact that there was a princess trying to get through enemy lines was more of a coincidence than anything else. In my film, the princess is more of a stand-and-fight kind of princess. In the beginning, in one of the first drafts, I did have a little bit more of her and a Jedi, an older Jedi, trying to escape, but then it evolved into the story of Luke.”
Among other Japanese/kabuki imagery that has impacted ‘Star Wars’, just check out Padme’s makeup from ‘The Phantom Menace’. J.J. Abrams has also stated that Kylo Ren’s mask is inspired by kintsugi, an art in which cracks in pottery are painted with gold or silver to highlight them, rather than covering them up.
‘Star Wars’ has been very popular in Japan. Kabuki is still popular there, but it seems to have the same reputation there, as ballet or opera have here– a stuffy art form from the past that doesn’t necessarily appeal to a wide audience. ‘Star Wars Kabuki-Rennosuke and the Three Light Sabers’ is the latest attempt to expand the appeal of kabuki to wider audiences.
What do you think of this reinterpretation of ‘Star Wars’?