Blue Elephant Theatre
Jukai fuses many styles and traditions neatly into a show that runs at just over one hour. The story of a French children's author, her book characters and a troubled American tourist intertwine to create a thoughtful and moving piece using traditional Japanese music and beautiful half masks.
Set at the base of Mount Fuji, the characters all experience 'the sea of trees', a forest that, whilst beautiful, is also dangerous. The encounters that take place in this space change the direction of their lives and their discoveries are underscored by powerful drumming which evokes the excitement and uncertainty of this mysterious forest.
Created by drop down blinds and subtle lighting, the various settings of the piece are simply created, and this it to their credit as a fussy set would have diminished the core of this production - the relationship between the characters and the rhythms of the drums.
The use of masks is a clever conceit initially emphasising the comedic aspect of the children's book characters but later becoming far darker with their sinister unseeing eyes. The sharp contrast between humour and despair which runs through the heart of the play makes the final scenes even more poignant as the inevitability of such an ending becomes clear.
With such a small cast there is impressive multi-roling as the actors switch between the characters based in fiction and reality. The physicality of each character in every scene has clearly been given a huge amount of consideration and the soundscapes capture the changes in mood and scene perfectly.
There are many ideas to be drawn from this piece and it is better for the individual to muse rather than the reviewer to divulge. However, the combination of music and masks create an intriguing hour of theatre with some excellent performances and understated moments of pathos.
Until the 16th October
Reviewer: Amy Yorston