'Urashima Taro' - Rouge 28 Theatre
Pleasance Theatre | Suspense London Puppetry Festival
Urashima Taro, by Rouge 28 Theatre, tells the story of a fisherman seduced by a heartless turtle-woman. Inspired by a Japanese myth about a man that rescues a turtle, the performance explores the original folktale to highlight some of the darker aspects of the human condition: love, lust, cruelty and interdependence are all themes explored with some sophistication. Aya Nakamura is a talented puppeteer/performer and has a highly skilled ability to govern the stage whilst simultaneously sharing it with an animated co-star. The performance is a solo show, in which Aya performs with all the puppets – sometimes they lead, sometimes they have a dialogue, but the control of focus and the transition between the performer and puppet is always effortless and graceful. The puppets themselves are fascinating to watch – in fact, the manipulation was done so well that I would pay to watch them read the phone book! At times I struggled to follow the narrative, but was always engaged in the characters.
The scenographic language of the work was effectively developed by the use of scale, with large ‘life-sized’ manipulated figures sharing the stage with a smaller scale puppet show inspired by the paper theatre style. Shadow screen and visual projection interchanged seamlessly, bringing more fluidity to this one-person performance. A ‘hand puppet’ baby provided humour in its grotesque attention-seeking cries. Moments of intense stillness were lost at the Pleasance, with sound bleeding through the theatre walls – a real shame for the audience.