In November this year, it was announced that Ichikawa Ebizo will perform “Danjuro’s Succession Performance” at the Kabuki-za Theater in December. Recently, he has been the subject of much talk about things other than his artistic endeavorsOn May 31, it was announced that Ichikawa Ebizo’s “Danjuro Ichikawa XIII Shirasaru” and his eldest son, Kangen-kun’s “Shinnosuke Ichikawa VIII” would be performing in a W-assumed name show. The show will be held at the Kabuki-za Theater in November and December this year, with two performances, one day and one night.
“Originally, the show was supposed to be held at the Kabuki-za for three months from May to July 2020 to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics. However, due to the new coronavirus, it was postponed, and this time it will be a two-month performance, which is undeniably on a smaller scale. The program has not been decided yet, but I think Ebizo must feel disappointed.”
Speaking of performances for three months consecutively at the Kabuki-za, we recall the succession shows of Danjuro Ichikawa XII, who assumed the name in 1985, and of Kanzaburo Nakamura, who assumed the name in 2005. The responsibility of performing the role of a famous actor is a heavy one that Shochiku, the promoter, would not be entrusted to an actor unless he was extremely popular.
The current Corona disaster has caused a decline in the mobilizing power of the entire Kabuki world. It is believed that the popular Ebizo, no matter how popular he may be, was under the impression that three months would be too long for him to stay.
(A source close to the wide-show industry) “The great master of Kabuki will return to the stage after a nine-year and nine-month absence. Naturally, it is sure to be a topic of conversation not only among Kabuki fans.
However, it seems that mobilization is not the only reason for the reduction in the scale of the event.
It is said that kabuki makes a profit from succession, and that is true for both Ebizo and Shochiku. But this time, Shochiku, which has a “profitable” relationship with Ebizo, is feeling that they want to “get it over with quickly.” The main idea would be to start the show in January next year, or in May as was the case with the 20th year, and during that time, to make a big publicity campaign to boost the show.
There have not been many cases recently of an end-of-year show featuring the succession of a “big billboard” actor like Danjuro, except for the October and November succession of Nakamura Shikan VIII in 2016. The much-discussed feud between Ebizo and Shochiku may be behind the scenes.
“There has been a lot of noise in the media that there is a “draft” between Ebizo’s side and Shochiku. One of the reasons may be that he has only appeared at the Kabuki-za twice in two and a half years, despite the Corona disaster.”
The fact that Shochiku was not named as the sponsor or producer of the “Puperu Kabuki” that Ebizo starred in at the Shinbashi Enbujo Theater in January also contributed to the “feud” theory. Mr. Ebizo has been placing more emphasis on his performances and appearances in outside productions.
“There is also a conflict between his eagerness to have his eldest daughter, Reichu, perform in Kabuki and the big-name actors who oppose the idea because of the importance they place on tradition. Some at Shochiku are also opposed to the idea of bending tradition to allow a woman to appear in a Kabuki performance. Since the succession of the actor’s name is taking place in such a situation, it is understandable that Shochiku seems to be somewhat indifferent to the situation as if it were someone else’s problem,” said a Kabuki insider.
In any case, Ebizo will assume the name Danjuro, a major name in the Kabuki theater. His private life has become a topic of conversation rather than his artistic activities, but I wonder what kind of stage he and his bins will be able to show us.