Tuesday, 23 December 2014

REVIEW - Usagi Yojimbo at the Southwark Playhouse

FIVE stars

AS an antidote to the traditional Christmas panto the Southwark Playhouse has gone to the land of the rising sun for inspiration for its festive offering.
Usagi Yojimbo is a tale adapted from a 30-year-old Japanese comic book and is an absolute delight - even beginning with the audience getting a lesson in how to hold a sword and we have great fun pretending how to use it.
The show itself is a coming of age story about Usagi Yojimbo, a boisterous, tenacious, impetuous and petulant young rabbit who is in awe of his dead father's reputation as a samurai swordsman.
So in awe that he wants to be just like him.
His mother tries to rein in his curiosity and enthusiasm but one day when she finds that he is showing off his father's swords to his friends she decides enough is enough.
So she sends Usagi to a teacher far away who she hopes will teach him the skills he needs.
However, being the chap he is, instead of going to the intended school, he meets an old lion, a former warrior, who he begs to teach him instead.
And so begins Usagi's journey not only to learn how to use the sword properly but also what it means to be a samurai.
It features a small and amazing cast on a simple stage which itself opens up to reveal hidden treasures tucked away in hidey holes and a lone musician at the back of the stage provides the live music.
The stage and the curtain of bamboo on the back wall also become screens for some beautiful line drawn projections which complement the action on the stage.
It is at times funny and poignant but is also full of fun, charm and lots of well choreographed fights with bamboo poles and other implements.
It is a simple story, beautifully told and will appeal to anyone aged seven and over.

USAGI YOJIMBO is on at the Southwark Playhouse, Newington Causeway until Sunday, January 4.

Tickets cost £18 or £16 concessions. Visit www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk or call the box office on 020 7407 0234.

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