Tsunagu/Connect Live @ Shoreditch Town Hall Review

The Anglo-Japanese alliance signed in January of 1902 by British Foreign Secretary Lord Lansdowne and Japanese diplomat Hayashi Tadasu witnessed a period of diplomacy in the early 20th century between the two nations before its termination in 1923. Three years later and Japan transitioned into the Shōwa era, a period overseen by Emperor Hirotito and one that would endure the impact of defeat post WWII, shaping the course of future generations and as a result of this, migration being a means for many to seek a hopeful future elsewhere. Exploring the stories of Japanese migrants living in the UK post WWII, New Earth Theatre present Tsunagu/Connect Live – an immersive promenade production comprised of verbatim recordings of participants who took part in an oral history project led by the theatre company in 2020.

A series of snippets highlight the stories of various Japanese women throughout the eight decades post war, Tsunagu/Connect Live dynamically placing us in both the UK and Japan as the evening sways between the two nations. Stories ranging from teens navigating the school system in Shōwa era Japan during the chaos of WWII, a migrant’s experience of assimilation during 90s Britain as they establish new roots in a bedsit, an interracial couple meeting with parents for the first time and dealing with their micro-aggressions, another dealing with the prospect of not knowing whether status will be granted to reside in the UK, a blind date scenario challenging perspective of identity by solely making judgements on voice and a silent, a Japanese movie dubbed by a translator all adding their puzzle piece to the overall picture, the process of adorning oneself with Japan’s national dress, the Kimono, an image that beautifully pays homage to tradition.

Performers Tomoko Komura, Meg Kubota, Yuki Sutton and You-Ri Yamanaka vividly add heart to the stories and ideas explored, their sense of unity wonderful to watch and one that really ties the show together. Stewart Melton writes an eclectic, thoughtful show, one that gives voice to the Japanese women who’ve inspired the show’s creation. Co-creators Kumiko Mendl (New Earth Theatre’s Artistic Director) and Kazuko Hohki produce an insightful evening, intertwined with an exhibition of their oral history project that involved 12 interviewers speaking to over 30 participants about their migration experiences, images of the over 30 participants also give voice to stories seldom explored. Sachi Kimura‘s slick movement sequences encouraging us to transition to different parts of the space as we follow the cast’s lead. Part art exhibition, part play, Tsunagu/Connect Live’s experimental nature captures the new ground established within migration stories, stories where cultures collide and new experiences are formed.

Review written by Lucy Basaba.

Tsunagu/Connect Live is currently showing until Saturday 30th April 2022 at the Shoreditch Town Hall. To find out more about the production, visit here…

To read our interview with performer Meg Kubota, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop