Kuli-Kala: Revenge of the Samurai

Japanese company 30-DELUX’s debut London production is Kuli-Kala: Revenge of the Samurai, the tale of one person’s search for immortality and the perils that ensue. Set in the mythical province of Zipang in the sixteenth century, it follows a young samurai, Isshin, who has sworn to avenge the murder of his family by an evil shogun, Oda Nobunaga. With help from three female ninja warriors (kunoichi) who are apparently the modern incarnations of goddesses, he tracks down the evil warrior in preparation for a final showdown.

Playwright and director Nobuhiro Mouri’s plot can be a bit long-winded at times but overall it is entertaining enough. Toshihiko Sahashi’s music ranges from traditional Japanese music to modern-style anime tunes, reflecting the performance itself which is a mixture of a number of different styles. The story clearly draws on Japanese folklore and mythology, but there are elements of anime and of videogame fighting in the choreographed battles, which are definitely the most entertaining part of the show (although I loved the costumes too). Sadly, there wasn’t much scenery to speak of, just some projected backdrops.

The actors were good, and I was particularly impressed with Masaru Mori who played Nobunaga with a hint of Captain Jack Sparrow’s swagger. He also got the catchiest song of the show, “Sixth Heaven Devil”, though this, and the other songs in the show, were performed by two singers, the JQ-B band.

The audience seemed quite different to the usual theatre audience, as far as I could tell: there were lots of Japanese people there and lots of teenagers who looked as though they might have been into manga, anime and videogames. I’m always impressed with shows that can bring in a new audience to theatre, and this is no exception.

Kuli-Kala isn’t my usual theatrical fare, but I did enjoy it and it was good to do something a bit different.

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