Iva Toguri – not a name you are familiar with perhaps – but certainly a woman whose story is worth telling. A proud American of Japanese descent caught in the cross fire after the Second World War; she was accused of treason for radio broadcasting Japanese propaganda to Allied Forces. Burnt Lemon Theatre have brought to life this astonishing slice of history in their new musical Tokyo Rose, and it is a whirlwind.
Hannah Benson, who directs, choreographs and musically directs this stunning production has hit every nail on the head. Iva Toguri, played by powerhouse Maya Britto, has me on the edge of my seat, her vocals are resolute from start to finish.
Beginning in America, we are swiftly taken through the start of her life with the opening number, an upbeat pop song; the aim is clear – tell this forgotten story loud and proud. When Iva’s Japanese parents (played brilliantly by Lucy Park and Yuki Sutton) present her with a one-way ticket to Japan, with good reason, the atmosphere changes to capture a new and interesting culture.
The play is extremely fast paced, you blink and you’ve missed a chapter, and with the Hamilton-style songs, occasionally words are lost in the rush. However, the sheer amount they present in the 2 hours is phenomenal and in telling every relevant point in Iva’s life they show a high level of respect to her story.
The story is an emotional rollercoaster and is brilliantly executed; interchanging effortlessly between the trial in court and scenes of Iva’s life. The all-female cast have unwavering vocals and commit fully to transforming before our eyes into a plethora of characters, particularly Cara Balwin, whom not only wrote Tokyo Rose’s book and lyrics, but also lights up the stage with her multi rolling abilities.
The set and lighting are like the cast’s vocals – second to none, I am lost in the world of Tokyo Rose and itching to find out Iva’s fate. A story worth listening to and a performance worth watching – Tokyo Rose shall be running through my mind for a long while.
Review written by Lauren Russell.
The production will show from Thursday 23rd September to Saturday 16th October at the Southwark Playhouse, Monday 18th to Wednesday 20th October at Curve Theatre Leicester, Thursday 21st to Saturday 23rd October at The North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford and Monday 25th to Wednesday 27th October at the Corn Exchange Newbury.
To read out interview with co-writer Maryhee Soon, visit here…