Lanuage is no barrier

By Julia Gregory THEATRE company Complicite draws a loyal following of theatre goers who know they are going to see something different from its shows and be challenged and Shun-kin is no exception. Its production A Disappearing Number sold out and it se

By Julia Gregory

THEATRE company Complicite draws a loyal following of theatre goers who know they are going to see something different from its shows and be challenged and Shun-kin is no exception.

Its production A Disappearing Number sold out and it seems that Shun-kin is also proving a good draw and offers plenty of food for thought.

Complicite's Simon McBurney joined forces with the Setagaya Public Theatre in Tokyo to create this production based on the life of Shun-kin.


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She was a beautiful young woman who became blind but made a name for herself as a skilled musician and music teacher in late 19th century city of Osaka.

Her story was immortalised in the writing of Jun'ichiro Tanizaki, who is not well known in the West and Complicite and Setagaya Public Theatre work on a dramatisation of the story.

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She was also wilful and had a complex relationship with the young man Sasuke who cared for her and later became her lover.

When her face was disfigured in an attack, he performed the ultimate act of love and self sacrifice he blinded himself so he could not see the injuries.

The action is performed using puppetry as well as actors and the dark sets and costumes convey the constricting life of the blind young woman in nineteenth century Japan.

This is grown up theatre which keeps audiences on the edge of their seats as they get immersed in a different world and a more stylised form of acting than is common on London stages.

The play is performed in Japanese with English sur-titles but the linguistic challenges demand a pronounced and visual form of acting to ensure that the meaning is clear and both tension and humour shine through.

Don't let the language be a barrier - this play well rewards its audience and its haunting images will stay with you for a long time to come.

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