Death of a Samurai ****

Death of a Samurai

Death of a Samurai. Image courtesy of the EdFringe Media Office

Augustine’s, 7 – 30 August 2010

Reviewed for the British Theatre Guide

If you or I tried cross-pollinating plot elements from Shakespeare  and Japanese exploitation cinema with aspects of characters from anime,  manga and folklore we’d end up with some hideous, limping mutant thing.  A-LIGHT try it and get a sleek hybrid organism they’ve named Death of a Samurai.

We’re in an enchanted wood straight out of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A moody samurai, a beautiful assassin and a gutsy ninja (overtly based on the title character from Naruto) are all trying to get their hands on a girl (whose costume references Sailor Moon) with the power to confer immortality (a MacGuffin cribbed from Ryuuhei Kitamura’s Versus).  And those are just the references I picked up. Cue chases, intensive  training sequences, stylised fight choreography (incorporating  shout-outs to Dragonball, amongst others) and emotions (including Love-In-Idleness-induced infatuation) writ very, very large.

Knowledge of the specific reference points is not necessary  for understanding the show, though some familiarity with the general  frames of reference is helpful when trying to determine whether or not  to take any of it seriously (crash course: don’t). The few salient  points of the plot are given in English, and the storytelling from then  on is predominantly physical, so understanding Japanese isn’t necessary  either.

The visuals, from costume and make-up to choreography, are  elaborate and sumptuous, and the cast approach their roles with 100%  commitment. This may not be a subtle nor a highbrow piece of work, but  neither is it played entirely for laughs; the characters may essentially  be caricatures, but you’ll be surprised how attached you’ve become to  them by the end.

Need a second opinion?

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