Suicide anyone? The only questions for the three characters who have arranged to meet through the internet for a joint suicide pact would seem to be when, where and how, but as this tragi-comedy of a play progresses it is their motivations that are revealed and provide the discordant diversions that prolong and prevent what each had thought would be a simple exit from reality.
Written and directed by the acclaimed Shoji Kokami, assisted by Raymond Waring in this newly translated English version of his 2004 Japanese original, this production uses European actors in what is clearly a very Japanese play exploring Japanese obsessions. It requires the audience to make a leap of faith or willing suspension of disbelief in order to fully engage.
Lone Schacksen’s minimalist set, of angled wooden panels as a backdrop and four box frames for seats and platforms, serves to set the slightly surrealistic mood of this, at times, absurdist production. Divided into a series of short scenes, each with their own enigmatic keywords projection, we move seamlessly from place to place.
Abigail Boyd’s Kazumi is not alone, for she is accompanied by a young boy, Akio, brilliantly played by Joe Morrow, who is in fact a ghost. Svengali-like he is keen that the others should die and join him, and his quips and observations are some of the best lines in the play. But Kazumi has issues, and is in fact there to prevent the others from committing suicide, the reasons for which we learn as the play progresses.
Dan Ford’s Masa is a confused fantasist with low esteem whose personality changes determine the paths taken, becoming responsible for a series of bizarre re-enactments, carried out most eagerly by Mark Rawlings as Hello Kitty, the quirky just-out-of-the-closet gay (though not to his family), who just want to die having fun.
Masa tells the group that the city is under attack and they have to be ‘human shields’ and perform a fairy tale from his childhood at a local primary school where he intends to invite the media before destroying it with a bomb. Whilst the programme notes clarify the inspiration and intentions of the play these are not always clear in the production and Masa’s ‘brain switch’ comes here out of the blue.
The final denouement is powerful and engaging, perfectly paced and allowing the pathos that was missing earlier to provide a platform for their Halcyon Days.
- Dave Jordan