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
Reviewed – 19th September 2018
“Jonny Dixon’s superb puppets and masks feed our imagination and enhance this youthful yet enlightened production”
Iris Theatre presents a new, pertinent version of the ‘Arabian Nights’, turning Hoxton Hall into a wonderland of illusion. Rich colours, masks, puppets, dance and music blend and fuse with the narration to take us on a familiar journey, but down a different path. Nessah Muthy’s heartfelt rewriting of this centuries-old treasure adapts the framework of the story to show the strength and independent minds of women. King Shahryar finds revenge for his wife’s unfaithfulness by marrying a new wife every day and killing her the following morning. When he decides to marry Dunzayad, his young servant, her older sister, Sharazad, uses her gift of storytelling to buy time and save her. In doing so, she gradually sees behind the king’s brutal façade and challenges him, questioning her own feelings as well. Muthy also adds clever twists of gender within the tales, giving them a modern relevance.
Director, Daniel Winder, masterfully interprets the script with art and inspiration. Jonny Dixon’s superb puppets and masks feed our imagination and enhance this youthful yet enlightened production. The lighting (Ben Polya) and sound (Filipe Gomes) add magical and dramatic effects and a constant stream of additional details holds our attention – Amber Scarlett’s resourceful set design, evocative music and dance (Sonum Batra and Nour Alkawaja) and colourful costumes by Maddy Ross-Masson.
The well-chosen, multi-cultural cast poignantly reflects the rich origins of the ‘Arabian Nights’. The six actors cover a multitude of roles as well as manipulating the puppets with dexterity, allowing us to enjoy the fantasy. We not only hear of Ali Baba and Sinbad; brothers and sisters, princesses, husbands and wives, sailors, kings and queens and animals all play their part in recounting adventures, myths and morals. There are varied and vivid performances from Ikky Elyas and Maya Brittoa, Hemi Yeroham’s comic flair, Pravessh Rana’s powerful presence on stage, Izzy Jones’s portrayal as the spirited sister and a special mention for Sharon Singh as Sharazad, who elegantly holds the main plot together with the many narrative diversions.
The first half of the show takes a while to flow. Once we break through the slightly ‘theme park’ feel of the repetitive, pre-show piped music, the imitation stone of the set (from the audience’s close proximity) and the initial impact of the broad acting, we can appreciate the huge amount of thought, work and talent. It is neither a children’s show nor more suitable for adults; seemingly, it has something for everyone. And, at two and a half hours long, there is plenty of time to find it.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Photography by Ali Wright
Hoxton Hall until 13th October
Previously reviewed at this venue