"Shibaraku" is a program of Kabuki and is one of the Kabuki juhachiban (eighteen best plays of the Ichikawa family of Kabuki actors). It is a historical drama. It is a representative program of tachiyaku.
In January 1697, Danjuro ICHIKAWA (the first) played "Sankai Nagoya" for the first time in Edo Nakamura-za Theter. It was a collaboration of Akashi NAKAMURA and Danjuro the first. Originally this program was used in kaomise kyogen (the season-opening production).
In the old days, characters were not fixed; they changed at every performance. When Danjuro ICHIKAWA (the ninth) played this program in 1895, it became an independent play. The scenario at that time was fixed, and it has been used up to now.
A villain, KIYOHARA no Takehira scheming to succeed to the throne, captures many good people who oppose him, such as MINAMOTO no Yoshitsuna. KIYOHARA no Takehira orders Goro NARITA and other retainers to behead Jiro Yoshitsuna KAMO and other people that have been captured. Just before the execution, Gongoro Kagemasa KAMAKURA smartly appeared with a shout, saying "Shibaraku," and after a scuffle, he helps the captured out.
The names of the characters had not been fixed for a long time; different names were used in each performance. However, it was so confusing that people committed to the Kabuki performance and natives of Edo who knew Kabuki well called the characters by common names such as: "Shibaraku" as the main good character; "Uke" as the villain; and "Haradashi" as his retainer. The names became fixed when Danjuro (the ninth) performed "Shibaraku" as an independent play in 1895.
Gongoro Kagemasa KAMAKURA
"Shibaraku": a retainer of KAMO no Yoshitsuna; historically Kagemasa KAMAKURA
KIYOHARA no Takehira
"Uke": historically KIYOHARA no Takehira
Jiro Yoshitsuna KAMO
"Tachishita": historically MINAMOTO no Yoshitsuna
Katsura no Mae
Bride elect of KAMO no Yoshitsuna
Kurodo Sadatoshi HOGI
Chief retainer of the Kamo family
"Haradashi": a retainer of KIYOHARA no Takehira
Kashima Nyudo Shinsai
"Shibaraku" is a popular program always at the top of the list, due to its simple scenario. Onitaro OKA, a Kabuki writer and drama critic, commented on this program as follows: "As this is a nonsense drama, just enjoy without arguing." Originally this was a 'Kichirei' (festive custom) program, which was added to another program in yearly kaomise performance.
Therefore, sophisticated production was created such as 'Onna shibaraku' in which an actor of female roles plays the role of 'Shibaraku.'
The main character is a superman with a numen, who can get rid of an evil spirit. Danjuro of every generation have expressed the quality with a glaring, a skill of hereditary succession. At one time, patrons came even to the dressing room to receive the glaring as an amulet. The actor gave them the glaring with Kumadori (uniquely exaggerated makeup, drawing red and black lines) of "Shibaraku," as is said.
The actor who plays the role of "Uke" wears a golden crown, a silver sokutai (traditional ceremonial court dress), oji katsura (a wig of long hair), and a hefty blue Kumadori called Kugeare. To play this role, an actor should have grandness and dignity. Those who have made hits in this role are Mihoemon NAKAJIMA in the Edo period, Utaemon NAKAMURA (the fifth) after the Meiji period, Shoroku ONOE (the second) and Nizaemon KATAOKA (the thirteenth) after World War II. Utaemon, an actor of female roles, created a rare variation in which "Shibaraku" turns into a woman, saying that he was actually a woman.
As a representative of aragoto plays, "Shibaraku" is often played overseas. The title in English is "Just Moment."