CENTREFOLD / Noh man's land: Gender-benders from Japan

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Takarazuka is Japan's answer to the camper elements of Western theatre - a musical extravaganza complete with chorus lines, top hats and besequinned finales. It is seen, however, as much more than just a theatre company back home.

Its four troupes are made up entirely of female performers, half of whom have been impersonating men - on stage and off - since the age of 16. Undergoing the strict training regime at the Takarazuka stage school is a dream for many young Japanese girls but only 40 are accepted each year. The 'male' players take their roles very seriously, learning to drop their voices and swagger around like real men in sharp suits. Clinging to them in utmost adoration, the female players have to be perfect Japanese women, embracing humility and inner beauty.

Takarazuka was planning to appear at the 1991 Japan Festival in the UK but failed to find a theatre big enough to cater for the vast array of performers, 39-piece band, revolving stage and numerous set changes. The Coliseum has risen to the challenge and undergone a huge overhaul for the company's debut.

In Japan, Takarazuka has a massive, mainly female, cult following which will queue for days in the hope of getting a ticket and buy up every piece of merchandise. It is doubtful that women in London will show quite the same degree of interest. Nevertheless, whether you're male or female, Takarazuka could still help inject a little glamour into your life this month.

'Takarazuka]' The Coliseum, St Martin's Lane, WC2 (071-836 3161) pounds 7.50-pounds 30 to 23 Jul

(Photograph omitted)

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