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Review - Hanako: Something really different

Right: Caroline Dunphy and Kimie Tsukakoshi


Writer & Co-creator: Katherine Lyall-Watson

Director & Co-creator: Caroline Dunphy

Belloo Creative/Brisbane Festival

Visy Theatre

Brisbane Powerhouse

New Farm


Season: 13 – 17 September 2016. Duration 75 mins. Bookings: Brisbane Powerhouse Box Office (07) 3358 8600; or;

Katherine Lyall-Watson won accolades for her play Motherland earlier this year – I enjoyed very much myself, so I was looking forward to this new work, which sounded really different and exotic, as many of Brisbane Festival productions are.

It was different all right, with lots of oriental music, electronic sounds, and explosions that permeated the play. But then it was not a play in the accepted sense in concept or execution. It was disjointed and a mix of many theatrical forms from the ancient Japanese Noh play to Suzuki method acting, martial arts with bits of Japanese language and western culture and even a hint of Madama Butterfly thrown in.

The plot is loosely based on a classic Japanese tale of dominance and desire that explores a girl’s battle to escape into the future while warring adults try to contain her in the past. The action is disjointed, jumps from time frame to time frame and is interrupted by blasts of sounds, music from Sound Designer & Composer Dane Alexander and some amazing lighting effects from Jason Glenwright.

I found it difficult to follow and with no program to explain things am still puzzled by the opening, The audience was taken back stage in the dark and we stood, hot and sweaty and apart from the first few people let in saw nothing except flickering lights and heard many different amplified noises.

Eventually we let into the theatre when the action began.

I honestly have no idea what was going on.

Kimie Tsukakoshi has returned to Brisbane to play the role of Hanako, a young Japanese girl who was sold into a brothel when she was six years old (not a disgrace in those days, in fact the geisha was a respected tradition). She was sold on to a performing troupe later and then picked up by an American impresario who made her a star.

The macabre end to her stage act was to simulate death in many different ways. But through her life she is fighting against her past sadness and trying to break free of those who want to keep her in the old Japanese tradition of female domination.

Kimie was joined on stage bye Noriaki Okubo, Kimie Tsukakoshi, Caroline Dunphy, Zachary Boulton, Masako Mizusawa, Nicole Harvey and Caitlin Hill.

The 75 minutes passed quickly and there were moments of power and poignancy as well as a few laughs and tense moments. The characters were well created, but I would have liked to see better costuming, particularly a few bright kimonos.

The Brisbane Festival likes to stretch boundaries, as it should, but it was a stretch too far for me.

The audience in the main though was enthusiastic and the cast won a very warm ovation so maybe I was in a minority,

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