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In Japan, theatre by women, for women

Tokyo

india Updated: Jun 10, 2006 19:21 IST

Japan's traditional kabuki theatre is a man's world, with male actors even in the roles of women. But there is also a passionate flip side: the Takarazuka Revue- a troupe by women, for women.

The rigorously trained company, which has performed for nearly a century starring young single women, has drawn generations of devoted, yet decidedly mild-mannered, fans.

Hisako Fujimatsu, a 35-year-old office worker, has been going to see the Takarazuka since her grandmother took her to one of their plays at the age of three. She has already booked tickets for several performances this year.

"Actresses playing male roles are attractive in a different way than real men," she said. "They are gentle, stylish, beautiful and broad-minded. Above all, it is good that they exist only in a dream world on the stage."

In a rigid training regiment akin to kabuki - which has banned women from acting since the 17th century - only graduates of the Takarazuka Music School are allowed to take to the stage.

They study for two years between ages 15 and 18, with about 50 girls entering annually. Their careers at the Revue can be short-lived, as they must quit if they marry, although some go on to lucrative television and film positions.

The troupe, with a theatre in Tokyo and several others in western Japan, has some 470 performers, divided into five troupes under the names Flower, Moon, Snow, Star and Cosmos.

First Published: Jun 10, 2006 19:21 IST