based on works by Haruki Murakami adapted by Frank Galati translated by Shunsuke Hiratsuka.

Barbican Theatre Silk Street EC2Y 8D To 30 May 2015.
Thu-Sat 7.15pm.
Runs 3hr 10min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7638 8891 (sold out).
Review: Timothy Ramsdenj 28 April.

Grand simplicity encasing dreamlike lives.
Young self-styled Kafka undertakes a journey, on which he’s told he must be “the toughest 15-year old in the world,” searching for his female relatives, taking refuge in a privately-run library. Meanwhile, an old man who refers to himself in the third person as “Nakata” goes searching for lost cats.

Something like a nuclear explosion left him, when young, mentally emptied-out but able to talk to cats. Several, human-sized, moggies accordingly appear and chat with him till he finds the cat-decapitator Johnnie Walker and is forced to watch his beloved felines lose their heads until he agrees with Johnnie’s demand that Nakata kill him.

Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami combines speculative mystery with narrative interest, making him a critical and popular success. There are fine performances in Yukio Ninagawa’s production, which are by no means overshadowed by its visual impact.

Designer Tsukasa Nakagoshi provides a series of large transparent cases, wheeled about the stage by a hard-working crew, so the story seems to be told in a series of museum display cabinets, creating discrete, intense environments including library, homes and woodland.

A cityscape is built when several of these combine with transport – glimpses of truck and bus – and bright neon signs, creating a busy commercial world amid which individuals travel and pursue their own quests. Both Colonel Sanders, recalling the founder of the fried chicken commercial empire, and Johnnie Walker the British whisky long focusing on export sales, crop-up.

Music, always important in Ninagawa’s work, binds separate scenes into a realistic yet also fantastic series of dreamlike experiences. Nino Furuhata has a simple, enquiring directness that stands-out amid the ever-evolving world around him, and Rie Miyazawa matches her businesslike appearance with a personal concern reflecting the possibilities of her relationship with young Kafka.

There are moments of avid sexual congress, and others of emotional yearning; the former are glass-encased, the latter can step outside the compartments. Such moments contrast too the busy-ness of life, seen also in the images of woodland and city. The whole creates a sweep in which theatrical bravura emphasises rather than diminishes the significance of the individual.

Miss Saeki/Girl: Rie Miyazawa.
Oshima: Naohito Fujiki.
Kafka: Nino Furuhata.
Sakura: Anne Suzuki.
Crow: Hayato Kakizawa.
Hashino: Tsutomu Takahashi.
Colonel Sanders: Masakatsu Toriyama.
Nakata: Katsumi Kiba.
Johnnie Walker: Masato Shinkawa.
Dr Juichi Nakazawa/NHK News Anchor: Masafumi Senoo.
Kawamura: Mame Yamada.
Otsuka/Brawny Soldier: Yukio Tsukamoto.
Police Officer: Fumiaka Hori.
Ms Soooooogo: Yoko Haneda.
Ms Tanaka/NHK TV Announcer: Soko Takigawa.
Mimi/Colonel’s Girl: Mutsukiko Doi.
Setsuko Okimochi: Erika Shumoto.
Dog/Tall Soldier: Takamori Teuchi.
Major James P Warren: Shinya Matsuda.

Director: Yukio Ninigawa.
Designer: Tsukasa Nakagoshi.
Lighting: Motoi Hattori.
Sound: Katsuji Takahashi.
Music: Umitaro Abe.
Costume: Ayako Maeda.
Hair/Make-up: Yoko Kawamura, Yuko Chiba.
Chief Assistant director: Sonsho Inoue.
Assistant director: Naoko Okouchi.

2015-05-29 09:10:15

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