I heard about Tokyo Rose when I was at All That Scratch, an Edinburgh Fringe special at the Other Palace. I was treated to one number from the score in this convert and immediately I knew I had to see the full thing!
Tokyo Rose tells the true story of Iva Toguri, a Japanese American who was born and raised in America but due to her aunt getting ill found herself in Japan at the start of the war. Despite her best efforts to try to get home she was unable to do so and found herself instead working on the radio. At the end of the war she finds herself transported back to America and put on trial for treason. She struggles to prove her innocence whilst clinging onto her cultural identity.
The story itself is brilliant source material for the show, especially in this time of heightened political currency about immigration. Burnt Lemon Theatre are able to use this tragic tale and make it into a riveting piece of musical theatre.
Tokyo Rose is cleverly put together, flicking between Iva Toguri’s trial and her life in Japan during the war. This is an effective way to juxtapose what is being said about her throughout the trial and what the reality was in Japan. The pace of the show is fast paced and there is a lot of plot to cram into this one hour show. On occasion the pace is possibly a little too frantic and some of the early scene setting gets missed. Concentration is definitely required to follow the wordy lyrics. I would love to see how this show is develops into a full length musical, the content is all there and a bit more time would just allow this show to breathe a little.
The music for Tokyo Rose could be described a pop/musical theatre rock with a smattering of hip-hop. The style felt fresh and relevant for today’s audience and it is a cast recording I could see myself streaming time and time again. This sort of style can put a lot of demand on the performers vocal ability however the cast of 5 women had powerful rock voices that were able to belt some insane notes time and time again.
Much of the show is symbolic, the cast perform with microphones in their hands throughout, the ensemble flit between characters signalling to the audience with a simple prop or costume addition as to which character they were at that time and the set is kept simple and adaptive to allow the shows energy to flow throughout. The choreography fitted in well with the style of music, it was all stylised and purposeful and not one movement was there just because it looked good.
Maya Britto played Iva Toguri and she had a real wide eyed innocence about her but a huge amount of courage shines through. Her solo number, ‘Crossfire’ a moment of calm in the show sent shivers up my spine. The rest of the cast adapted well to playing numerous roles throughout the show and often their exaggerated body language when playing characters such as DeWolfe, Prosecution Counsel for the trial was a nice touch.
Tokyo Rose is a fresh telling of the historical story that feels more relevant than ever. Innovative music and choreography and a cast that deliver this with passion and energy, I can’t wait to see what is next for this show and how it is developed in the future.
Tokyo Rose is on at the Iron Belly, Underbelly from 18:55 – 19:55. To find out more about Tokyo Rose visit their website.