ONE GREEN BOTTLE | London, Soho Theatre

Soho Theatre has joined forces with Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre to bring this overwhelmingly, almost repulsively mad satire about the disintegration of Japanese culture and family values to London. Well; maybe it is a satire. It’s mainly just an all-out, balls-to-the-wall comedy, and it’s very funny.

A father (Kathryn Hunter), mother (Hideki Noda, also writer) and daughter (Glyn Pritchard) all want to go out one evening, but somebody needs to stay in to look after the dog. Nobody can agree on who should be made to dogsit, so they end up destroying the house, chaining each other to a multiplug pillar, and eventually dying of thirst and starvation. But no, it really is a comedy.

The father, Bo, is a self-professed “master of the classical arts”, referring to traditional Japanese Kabuki theatre. But the real reason he wants to go out that evening is to see “Light Parade” at “Wonderland” with “King Michael the Mouse”. This is the central tension of the play: we are watching Kabuki-influenced theatre, but even the most passionate Kabuki actor prefers Disney.

“Nobody falls asleep in Wonderland. Nobody gets bored at Wonderland. No one commits Harakiri at Wonderland,” coos the father, lost in a word of rapture. If the play has a message, it’s this: the lure of American capitalism away from Japan’s dying traditions, and how that may or may not be bringing about the end of the world.

The cross-gender casting, wild overacting, and stilted, purple dialogue, along with disorienting, technicolour designs (Yukon Horio; Kodue Hibino) defines the production. More could be made of the live musician (Denzaemon Tanaka XIII), inactive for most of the piece. Some audiences may find this new play ‘a bit much’, but there’s no doubt this is a really exciting, unusual piece of theatre.

One Green Bottle is currently touring internationally, in London until 19 May 2018.

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