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Sotoba Komachi and The Damask Drum review at Greenwich Playhouse

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The Japanese writer and exponent of Samurai values as counterweights to modern decadence, Yukio Mishima, fascinates not least because he committed Seppuku – the ritualised Samurai suicide involving disembowelment and beheading. Part of his plays’ lure is as insights into someone who could inflict such extreme violence. The frustration, especially for a Western audience, is that answers are inconclusive, though we acknowledge their sophistication.

His two short plays Sotoba Komachi and The Damask Drum are bound by the themes of unrequited love and old age, the cruelty of beauty and death – concerns both universal and, in this context, inscrutably Japanese.

The first play is more abstract and director Franko Figueiredo wisely opts for stylised presentation, effectively blending elements of modern Japan and of the Noh theatre Mishima revived. A wiry Tereza Araujo is the legendary Komachi, a 99-year-old once beautiful woman, who fatally enthrals poet (Jay Lim), shadowed by Ecco Shirasaka as Mishima himself.

Despite Figueiredo’s highly appropriate direction and confident, well-cast acting, the lasting impression is of the play’s difficulty. It is balanced by the more accessible, initially more light-hearted The Damask Drum, which recreates the bustle of Japanese office life and the enduring pain of those living in the slow lane.

Araujo is again to the fore as ring-leader among office lads, while Shirasaka is a lovelorn janitor pining for the cruel, beautiful Hanako (Carli Goodwin).

As in Noh, we progress into an afterworld where the consequences of mortal actions linger – but still we are denied any easy resolution of life’s cruelties.

Production Information

Greenwich Playhouse, August 10-September 5

Author
Yukio Mishima translated by Donald Keene
Director
Franko Figueiredo
Producer
Stone Crabs
Cast includes
Tereza Araujo, Carli Goodwin, Belinda Hoare,
Jay Lim, Ecco Shirasaka, Akiko Sato, Nicholas Goode
Running Time
1hr 30mins

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