As an onnagata, or a kabuki actor specialising in female roles, Nakamura Tokizo V has a growing presence thanks to the breadth of his artistic repertoire.
He is the lead actor in a production of "Kirare Otomi," a 19th-century kabuki play written by Kawatake Mokuami, being performed at the National Theatre through March 26. He plays the title role of Otomi, who turns to extortion and murder out of love for a man, a typical "akuba" (sinister woman) role.
"I want to show proper and formal acting, without resorting to surprise stage gimmicks," he said.
"Kirare Otomi" is an adaptation of the popular "Kirare Yosa," but it focuses on the female character of Otomi rather than Yosaburo, the original play's protagonist.
Otomi is a mistress of Akama Genzaemon, played by Arashi Kitsu-saburo in the current production. However, she falls deeply in love with masterless samurai Yo-saburo (Nakamura Kinnosuke), who is on a quest to find a precious, lost sword.
Their affair is discovered, and Akama attacks Otomi with a sword, but Komori-Yasu, one of Akama's men, saves her life. Brutally scarred, Otomi is reunited with Yosaburo.
In an attempt to make money to buy back the sword, Otomi, joined by Komori-Yasu, goes to a brothel run by Akama and extorts money from him. She then kills Komori-Yasu and runs to give the money to Yosaburo.
"This is a role that both my grandfather, Tokizo III, and my father, Tokizo IV, played. So my grandfather's disciples told me about the costume and scars on her face," Tokizo said.