Reviewed – 13th August 2019
“Burnt Lemon have shone a light on another silenced woman’s story, leaving the audience educated and thoroughly entertained”
Slick and inventive, Burnt Lemon’s new musical focuses on one American woman’s struggle through war and xenophobia to get back home. Based on the story of Iva Toguri vs the United States, we meet Iva (Maya Britto) in her formative years at UCLA during the 1940s. She is an American woman of Japanese descent “Born with American dreams running through (her) veins”. At the request of her mother (Yuki Sutton) she goes to Japan to care for a sick aunt. Within a few weeks. the events at Pearl Harbour instigate the US joining World War Two leaving Iva stranded, unable to go back to America and without a family.
She is pressurised by the Japanese government to renounce her American citizenship and broadcast anti-American propaganda at Radio Tokyo. In rebellion, she refuses to give up her American status and becomes a double agent passing disguised messages to the American allies through her supposedly anti-American indoctrination. When Iva is later brought to trial by the United States accused of treason, the injustice of her tribulation sits heavy in the air.
The plot is very convoluted but the writing partnership of Maryhee Yoon and Cara Baldwin has been concise and eloquent in exhibiting the facts. Bolstered by composer William Patrick Harrison’s pop-cum-rap music which resonates with some jaw dropping vocals throughout, in particularly from Lucy Park and Yuki Sutton. The ensemble multi-rolling as many different characters is impressively smooth, as is their choreography and physical storytelling.
Luke W Robson’s set design is minimalist, and versatile. With the wooden Radio Tokyo apparatus at the heart of the set, later used as the judge’s bench when Iva arrives in the American courtroom.
Tokyo Rose, from this all female powerhouse, is truly astonishing. Burnt Lemon have shone a light on another silenced woman’s story, leaving the audience educated and thoroughly entertained.
Reviewed by Liz Davis
Underbelly Cowgate until 25th August as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019