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Edinburgh review: Yokai (Underbelly)

There's a teeny tiny town in this piece from Lecoq graduates The Krumple

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
(© James Coote)

There's no small town smaller than the one in Yokai. Its teeny-tiny houses are surrounded by 2D wooden trees. A masking tape country road winds through it, lit up by pipe cleaner streetlamps. It's cute. It's adorable. And Lecoq grads The Krumple wreak havoc upon it. Proper ends-of-days havoc.

Before then, though, they bring the townsfolk to life. Plastic figurines grow into full-sized people in a series of surreal physical vignettes linked by little more than their absurdity – maybe an edge of loneliness, or a longing for love.

An absent-minded angler, his head stuck in the mouth of a vengeful fish, takes tea for one. A young girl escapes her orphanage – and a sexual predator – via pigtail zipwire. A husband slumps at his wife's grave for so long, showered by the shifting seasons, by fags and pills and birdshit, that he gradually turns into a tree.

All these little people are blown this way and that by the world, battered by forces much bigger than themselves. Performers in fleshy body stockings manipulate the town like giant trolls. They blow in giant cotton wool rainclouds and drive toy cars off cliff-faces. Wooden crates homes burst into flames. As this model town crumbles, it's an expression of just how helpless we are.

And yet, Yokai's still hopeful in spite of it all. Grief heals, hurts lessen and even old men with branches bursting from their ears find love. Above all else, Yokai celebrates life in the face of its ends: "Without knowing why I love this world where we come to die."

As content, it's a tad arbitrary, but it's delivered with style; all the better for the arch shonkiness that cuts through its cuteness. Helicopters on headbands whizz through the skies. Carollers cut out mid-chorus. As it relishes its shortfalls and failures, it seems rejoice in resilience all the more. Like us, it keeps on carrying on, making the best of our fragile, little lives.

Yokai runs at the Underbelly at 1.30pm until 28 August (except 16th).

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