Abstract: Vsevolod Meyerhold’s long-lasting interest in Japanese theatre was well known. But significant issues in the study of his interpretation and use of Japanese theatre—in particular, kabuki—remain uninvestigated and unanswered. This article raises and investigates such issues. It finds that Meyerhold never saw an authentic performance of kabuki and that what was truly decisive in his understanding and interpretation of the Japanese theatre had nothing to do with his actual experience—instead of reading or imagination—of a “kabuki” performance or with the authenticity of the “kabuki” performance he experienced, but had everything to do with his predisposed perception of such a performance as a confirmation and legitimation of his theory and practice. Meyerhold’s “traditionalist” approach to the principles and techniques of what he defined as “truly theatrical eras,” in particular, his approach—“welding the unweldable”—to the Japanese (or the Chinese) theatre, was decidedly practical and pragmatic as it was predicated on, and preconditioned to reinforce and legitimize, his theory and practice. Such an investigation of Meyerhold’s practical refraction of the Japanese (or the Chinese) theatrical tradition necessarily has a significant bearing on our perception of the creativity and originality of Meyerhold’s theory and practice as well as those of the twentieth-century Western avant-garde theatre in its relation to Asian theatre.
Asian Theatre Journal – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Aug 9, 2016