Kabuki coming to London and Rome

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Kabuki star Ichikawa Ebizo is returning to Europe in June, performing the traditional Japanese drama at venues in London and Rome.

Ebizo is the 11th holder of the prestigious kabuki stage name, which is handed down through the acting family, and he made his career at the age of 6 in 1983.

Announcing his return to London, where he made his European debut in 2006, Ebizo told a press conference in Tokyo that he is looking forward to playing the lead role in three pieces taken from the classic performance titled Yoshitsune Sembon Zakura ("Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees.")   

He will perform the roles of a 12th-century samurai warrior and a fox that turns into the warrior.   

"I want the audience to enjoy watching the ' aragato' (exaggerated acting) and the ' keren' (eye-catching feats) and feel the pure love of children for their parents," Ebizo said.   

The last time that he performed in London, Ebizo was nominated for a prestigious Laurence Olivier Award. 

The upcoming performance will be staged at Sadler's Wells Theatre in London from June 4 to 15.

The organizers have also added two dates to the schedule for the same play in Rome, which will be presented at the Argentina Theatre on June 21 and 22.   

After returning to Japan, the play will also have a run at Tokyo's Shinbashi Enbujyo Theatre in August and Kyoto's Minami-za Theatre in September.  

The tale itself was originally designed to be shown at puppet theaters in Japan and was first shown in 1747. The following year it was adapted for the kabuki stage.   

Kabuki is an important part of Japan's cultural heritage and combines dancing, acting and live traditional music. Despite its impressive history, however, the elders of the tradition are very aware that it needs to engage a younger audience to keep it alive.   

At 32, Ebizo has been credited with reviving that popular interest and has a very high profile in Japan. He has also appeared in several television commercials and in 2006 made his movie debut in Deguchi no Nai Umi ( Sea without Exit).