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Harajuku Girls

Kunjue Li and Elizabeth Tan in Harajuku Girls. Photo: Alexander Newton

Harajuku is an area of Tokyo which has become synonymous with Japanese teen street fashion – and cosplay, dressing like characters from cartoons and comics, is a big, though far from the only, part of Harajuku style.

Francis Turnly’s play explores this trend while also looking at the numerous pressures – economic, social, and sexual – placed on young women in Japan. Keiko and Mari, friends from school, find themselves drawn into a world of image clubs, dubious establishments in which they don different kind of costumes, dressing as hot police officers or pliable secretaries, acting out male fantasies.

While there are the seeds of some interesting ideas, Turnly seems so keen to probe the seedier side of Tokyo – the love hotels, the panty shops, the lecherous salarymen – that character development takes a back seat. The girls’ friendship feels thinly written and, despite the subject matter and upbeat J-pop soundtrack, Jude Christian’s production as a whole feels a bit sluggish and underpowered. It doesn’t help that Cecile Tremolieres’ set is strangely flimsy in appearance, the performers seem to be constantly shifting furniture around, and there’s a real sense of disconnect between the world being described and the look of the production.

Dates: February 24-March 21, PN February 26

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An underpowered exploration of the seedier side of Tokyo