Halcyon Days

Halcyon Days

Halcyon Days, written and directed by Shoji Kokami, received mixed reviews. I went along to see it simply because it was by a Japanese writer, without really bothering to read much about the story.

The programme didn’t give much away, but the names of the acts intrigued me as I waited to see the play. They had names like “How do you spell ‘conscientious’?”, “She spent so many nights thinking how he did her wrong”, and “Straddle me like a horse and squeeze”. The mind boggled.

Riverside Studios is a very small, intimate theatre, and it was with trepidation that my friends and I decided to sit in the front row. At times the actors came so close I could feel their breath. It was nerve-wracking to be so close, but it helped me to feel like I was part of the story.

So what was the story? Well, it’s set in Japan, and it’s about three people who come together because of a suicide website. I won’t go into too many details and ruin the story for you, but there is also a fourth character. He’s a ghost, called Akio, and he was my favourite character.

The story has twists and turns, moments of harsh reality, and moments of utter madness. At times it was hilarious – absolutely side-splittingly funny. At times it was sad, wistful even.

My main criticism, and this isn’t a criticism of the actors themselves, would be that I found it strange to have a play set in Japan, with Japanese characters, acted by a non-Japanese cast. All of the characters’ names were Japanese (including “Hello Kitty”), they ate their salad with chopsticks, spoke of Yen, and had trouble writing things in English. Yet the actors all appeared to be from the UK, and native English speakers. The translation (by Aya Ogawa) was very well done, and there must have been a number of slight changes in the script to make it work for a British audience (like including some of the lyrics to the song “I Will Survive”). But I couldn’t help wishing I could just watch Halcyon Days in its original language – Japanese.

Halcyon Days was on at Riverside Studios, London from 23rd August to 18th September, 2011. For more information about the play and cast, please check out the W-Squared Productions website.

(Image source)

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