A rare glimpse behind the scenes of kabuki theatre

A week-long exhibition sheds new light on Japanese performances

Image: Frederic Aranda

The art of Japanese kabuki theatre, a blend of music, dance, mime and elaborate costume that originated in the 17th to 19th-century Edo period, is as secretive as it is antique. But this month The Hospital Club – London’s seven-floor private members’ club for people in the creative industries – is opening its doors to offer a glimpse behind the kabuki curtain.

Image: Frederic Aranda

The one-week exhibition happening there is thought to be the first time backstage photographs from the rarefied world of kabuki have ever been shown or put up for sale. It will showcase a series of images by award-winning photographer Frederic Aranda, who, over the past five years, has been allowed unprecedented behind-the-scenes access during rehearsals and performances at London’s Barbican and Sadler’s Wells theatres to capture portraits of some of Japan’s biggest kabuki stars.

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The event also marks the one-year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan’s north-eastern Tohuku region, and all proceeds from each print (priced £350 to £750 and limited to 200 editions) will be donated to the Japan Society Tohuku Earthquake Relief Fund, a charity working with local grassroots organisations to deliver long-term support to the thousands of people affected.

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First picture: Ichikawa Kamejiro II drawing eyebrows. Second picture: Onoe Kikunosuke on stage at The Barbican in Twelfth Night.

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