Osome Hisamatsu Ukina no Yomiuri

Osome Hisamatsu Ukina no Yomiuri / 於染久松色読販 —The Seven Roles of the Love Story of Osome and Hisamatsu—

This play is by Tsuruya Nanboku IV and was first performed in 1813 and is a startling reworking of the story of Osome and Hisamatsu. Apparently based on a true story that took place in Osaka, this is a theme that was popular from the earliest days of both the puppet theater and kabuki. It is about the illicit affair between Osome, the daughter of a wealthy merchant and Hisamatsu, an apprentice in the shop. This affair was especially scandalous because of the transgression of class boundaries. Nanboku rewrote the play to be set in Edo and then so that seven of the key roles of the original story, including both Osome and Hisamatsu, were played by onnagata star Iwai Hanshiro V. The sections with characters from the original play are performed with spectacular quick changes. But Nanboku also created the role of Dote no Oroku, who is an akuba or "bad woman," This is a woman who does criminal things, but has a sardonic, sensuous charm as well. The most important scenes of the play feature Oroku and her husband Kimon no Kihei who is another charming villain role. The drama of these scenes is quite powerful and also depicts the lives of the lowest classes of commoners in the city of Edo with great realism. This balances the light spectacle of the original story presented with many fast changes.