Urashima Taro

I’ve just spent a spooky afternoon at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington watching a production of Urashima Taro, by solo artist Aya Nakamura of Rouge28 Theatre. It was spellbinding.

I first became aware of the story of Urashima Taro a few years ago when I read the story in a Japanese book for kids:

Urashima Taro is the Japanese legend of a fisherman who, as a reward for saving a turtle, is invited to meet the mysterious Lady Otohime. When Urashima Taro is invited to go, he is worried about leaving his aged mother alone, but assured that he will only be gone a day and she will be looked after. In fact, he is seduced by Otohime and, when he finally returns, discovers that everything he had known is gone. It is 300 years in the future, and his village is no longer there.

This tale of mystery was told using human size bunraku-style puppets, shadow theatre, video projections, and kamishibai (a traditional form of Japanese paper theatre – the origin of manga).

(Image source)

Aya Nakamura was absolutely amazing in a seductive, and quite creepy way. But she wasn’t as creepy as the puppets! I think I’ll be having some nightmares tonight! The kamishibai parts were really funny – Aya inserted paper figures on wires into the scenes and made noises to vocalise their actions.

The main language of the performance was English, but Japanese was used, too. Actually, there was more sound than speaking, and the music played an important role.

I ordered a ticket to Urashima Taro completely on a whim, thinking that I wasn’t doing anything for Halloween and it would be nice to do something a bit spooky. I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t expect to be spirited away in quite the manner that I was.

Today was the last date mentioned on the tour of Urashima Taro, but I hear this production has been around for a while, so hopefully it will come around again.

For more information, check out Rouge28 Theatre’s website, and watch the trailer below…

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