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REVIEW – Samurai Grandma

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In this amusing and charming solo show there is plenty of fun to be had with Shoko Ito’s Samurai Grandma, whether she is actually going senile as her grand-daughter believes or possessed of super powers bestowed by a legacy from her recently deceased husband.

With her Samurai Senses tingling, Grandma bravely faces the Kitchen Penguin and battles his evil plans for taking over the world through poor unsuspecting housewives and their household shopping, fighting his use of human desire and greed. The Beatles’ “When I’m Sixty-Four” makes her a wonderful ‘to the rescue’ theme with a simple humorous action and expression that is just perfect for ‘flying‘ and there are beautiful characterisations of the many people and creatures Grandma meets, along with some innocently sensual mimed eating of food, obviously very much enjoyed.

Setting is very simple: a box yields the magical treasure – a samurai costume – while music and sound effects help set scenes. Surtitles are projected against the bricks of the vaulted ‘cave’ venue and there is a real charm when Samurai Grandma speaks in English, punctuating the Japanese sometimes with just a few words and sometimes with quite a bit of narration / speech and even adlibbing. There are little observations about dangers in a housewife’s life that reflect modern society – its consumerism that includes greed and also a strange trust – and the use of the audience was inspired in the ‘dance battle’, where audience members became Grandma‘s adversaries. In the Fringe you are guaranteed a few exhibitionists in your audience and this was a great addition to the piece.

There are a few overlong passages and repetitions, and times when it seemed the show might be finished but it was just a change of scene / passing time. While the Grandma’s rolling across the floor was fairly impressive, and sometimes deliberately comical, the advertised martial arts were somewhat under par and occasionally it seemed Ito herself was having just a little trouble physically with stamina.

Samurai Grandma has a fairly simple but entertainingly absurd tale to tell and delivers it with energy and charm, some interesting angles and absurdities, and a real joy in playing with characters and audience which draws her listeners into happily cheering on both heroine and performer. A delightful adventure!

By Danielle Farrow

4 – 28 August (not 17), 15:15 (16:15) @ Just the Tonic at the Caves


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