BWW Review: Intense OLIVER TWIST in Japanese at Tokyo Geijutsu Gekijou Playhouse
As you're sitting in the audience, waiting for the show to start, the lights above you shine in your direction. They flicker, and darken, and, while the fog permeates the air around you, sounds of a storm are heard rolling in. For a moment you wonder if it's going to rain, and you suddenly feel naked and unprotected. But then you remember you're sitting inside a theater, and the first actor wanders desperately on stage. This is the opening to the new and intense Oliver Twist, written and directed by Kishimoto Koki and Kojima Ryouta.
From the beginning, you are pulled into the story, getting an almost VR experience into the world of 19th century London, where social classes were polar opposites, but touch on themes which are still relevant into today's society. Mr. Kishimoto's script is close to Charles Dickens' novel, but was written with more sensitivity and emotion from each character's points of view. Without giving away any spoilers, you can expect some intense changes to the story, particularly with the characters Artful Dodger and Bill Sikes. We have to remember that, in Japanese society, suicide is a subject that affects a large percentage of people, making it content that hits close to home. Tackling the gruesome deaths we witness on stage, Director Kishimoto wanted to convey that still even the worst criminals have it in them to change for the better. As the actors told us in their interviews, it's up to the audience to decide whether or not each character gets their happy ending. But overall, they hope everyone can feel how love comes in many different forms and transcends all types of people.
The musical director, Mr. Kojima's music is completely original, and important to the movement of the story. Typically, musicals are known for their "show-stopping" numbers, which are just a way to spotlight an actor; a digression from the flow of the main storyline. But in this heartfelt production of Oliver Twist, the songs and lyrics are necessary to understand what's happening. All the cast members are vocally talented, including the workhouse kids who have impressive stage presence and comedic timing beyond their years. Although with stunning lighting and an interactive set design, it must be easy for any actor to feel engulfed in this world, which is colored in browns and creams, only off-set by the character Fagin who wears strong colors, maybe hinting at his colorful personality against his poor rank in society. Nancy also wears a strong red dress throughout the entire show, perhaps as a symbol of love, or blood, or passion. It's all up to the audience's convictions.
Fagin, who is played by the incredible Fukui Kiichi (recently seen as King Claudius in HAMLET, which we covered HERE), talked in great detail about the responsibility he feels towards this infamous character.
Kazuma Kawahara is the sweetest guy, and was able to explain to us how he found the courage to play a role as evil as Bill Sikes for the first time in his career.
Dodger, who went through the biggest transformation from the novel, might be the most emotional part of this show. Kanda Kyouhei talked us through what it's been like re-creating a character that has always been played by a child.
Oliver Twist plays in Tokyo at the Geijutsu Gekijou Playhouse until July 14th.
Then it will move to Kansai for a limited engagement in September, so make sure to grab your tickets before it sells out! Get more information on the Official Website.
All photos used in this article are official promotional images provided by the Oliver Twist production. All rights reserved.