The Tale of Zabuza and Haku of the Country of Water [Naruto]
Director's Program Notes
The Tale of Zabuza and Haku of the Country of Water has a deceptively simple title -- though it does indeed tell the story of the sixth Mizukage and his loyal mentor and bodyguard, the tale is more than simple biography. The tale has elements of political tension, philosophical struggles, ideology, revolution, betrayal, compassion, and triumph -- yet is, at its core, a love story.
When award-winning dramatist Sugimori Nobumori set to capturing the story of these two contemporary figures, he harkened back to Water's great stage tradition, choosing to utilise a moder-day rendition of historical theatre forms such as those found in classical plays The Dish Mansion at Banchou and Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees. As such, Sugimori's composition does not seek to re-create events exactly as they happened, but to re-tell history in a dramatic narrative. Costumes, music, and dialogue may appear anachronistic and even random to conteporary viewers, but each element of the production has been carefully constructed to heighten the legendary sense of the drama. For example, the song 'Mine', from the third act, is close in form to a samekoiuta (a two-part song in which an older suitor is rejected by his beautiful young boy), though the narrative obviously demands some change to the traditional structure of the duet.
The cast has been assembled from some of the finest thespians Water has to offer. Bandou Tamasaburou (Zabuza) is one of Water's most famous samegata, one of a mere handful of actors who specialise in portraying members of Water's selachimorphous clans (who are themselves historically disdainful of the performing arts); though they are frequently concealed by his costume, he wears the traditional makeup of the samegata, with pale skin and three dark lines on each cheek. Matsumoto Hakuou (Fifth Mizukage) is likewise no stranger to the stage, celebrating his fifty-sixth year as a member of this company, having started his career at the age of six as an assistant puppeteer for The Love Suicides at Amijima. Matsumoto Koushirou (Hatake Kakashi), like his character, is not a native of Water, but came as a youth to pursue a career in the theatre, starring most recently as the lead in The Subscription List. Making her stage debut in Mist is Asano Mayumi (Haku), who though only sixteen has the presence and charisma to become the next rising star of the theatre world.
Like other performances of its type, The Tale of Zabuza and Haku of the Country of Water uses traditional, now-antiquated forms of the language, with which many younger viewers may not be familiar. As a pre-emptive measure against any confusion, we have presented for our audience a summary of the events as the play unfolds, in the hopes that with even only the merest understanding of the events unfolding, the beauty of the performance and the sincerity of the title characters' love for one another will capture the imagination of young and old alike.
Haku sits alone on a bridge in the snow; passers-by cross in front of him, and he holds out his hand for alms, telling anyone who will listen his sad tale: he has been cast aside by his father, who has discovered the young boy's recently manifested bloodline ability, and has had to turn to a life on the streets, begging for scraps ('Home'). Few hear his cries, and fewer still give him anything. Then, a man in an ANBU uniform crosses the bridge, and his eyes fall upon the young boy ('Ravens in the Snow'). The man is Zabuza, an idealistic yet taciturn jounin, who regards Haku and gives the boy the opportunity to come with him -- but makes it clear that this is not an art of charity, but that Haku is entering into Zabuza's service, where he will remain so long as he continues to be useful ('Useful Tools'). Haku agrees, and goes with Zabuza.
Some years later, Haku has grown into his own as a ninja, trained by Zabuza and also by himself; his bloodline ability allows him to manipulate both wind and water, and though he speaks to no one save Zabuza, he asserts that this is preferable ('Ice and Mirrors'). Zabuza enters with a dozen co-conspirators, and they discuss their plans -- that very night, they will attempt a coup against the Fifth Mizukage ('Dangerous, Dark'). The Fifth Mizukage, they explain, is both corrupt himself and responsible for a corrupt system that disenfranches those with bloodline abilities. They leave, and Zabuza tells Haku that the coup will be dangerous, to which Haku replies that wherever Zabuza goes, no matter the danger, he will go too ('Follow You Always'). Zabuza and his compatriots attack the Fifth Mizukage's quarters, where the Fifth Mizukage and Zabuza clash; the Fifth Mizukage says that he never trusted Zabuza, and kept eyes on him, knowing he'd turn traitor someday ('Night Attack'/'Your Kind'). The coup fails, the Fifth Mizukage's forces swarm them, and Zabuza and Haku flee into the night.
Alone, Zabuza contemplates his fate; he vows to challenge the Fifth Mizukage again ('Old Wounds'). Haku finds him and comforts him, and together the two of them discuss how they will have to become mercenaries in order to gain enough funds to mount another successful attack on the Fifth Mizukage; Zabuza explains that he wants to overthrow not only the Fifth Mizukage, but the entire system in Water ('Dreams'/'Dirty Work'). Haku asks him why, and Zabuza tells the story of his past: denied admittance to the ninja academy, Zabuza educated himself and grew stronger, until he appeared before his classmates on the day of their graduation, when half were supposed to die, and instead killed them all ('The Demon Zabuza'). He then turns to Haku and asks if Haku loves him; Haku swears that he loves Zabuza wholly, with heart and body alike ('Mine'), and they fall into one another's arms.
Zabuza has accepted a job on behalf of a crime syndicate to threaten a small, isolated community into refraining from building a bridge to connect them to the mainland; unfortunately, the job has grown far more sinister, and now Zabuza finds himself confronted with Konoha shinobi, a team of students led by legendary ninja Kakashi ('Dirty Work' reprise/'Children'). The teams clash, and when it seems Zabuza is nearly lost against Kakashi's sharingan, Haku appears, dressed as a member of ANBU, and 'kills' Zabuza, taking his body away ('Clash Among the Trees'). The syndicate threatens Zabuza and Haku ('Payment'), and the pair seek out Kakashi and his team, who are guarding the village. Kakashi and Zabuza do battle, as do Haku and Kakashi's students ('The Bridge'). When Haku senses that Zabuza is in danger, he steps between Zabuza and Kakashi's deadly attack. Kakashi deflects in time, and when Zabuza expresses shock, Haku says that he would give his life for Zabuza ('Mine' reprise). Kakashi tells Zabuza that this is not the path his high-minded idealism demands of him ('Noble Hearts'), and all three team up to defeat the syndicate and save the village from heartless mercenaries ('The Bridge' reprise)
Zabuza closed the program, shaking his head. "I think they're stretching the truth a little here," he sighed, his already-low voice further muffled by the cloth pulled about his mouth.
"It's called dramatic licence," Haku smiled, placing a well-manicured hand atop Zabuza's knee. With any luck, between Zabuza's being out of uniform and Haku's unusually simplistic yet entirely feminine garb, no one in the little theatre would even recognise them. "Now hush; it's about to begin."
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