BWW Reviews: AKIO! Follows One Boy's Journey Into The Video Games He Loves To Learn About Life, Courage and Love.
Friday 10 July 2015, 7pm, Hayes Theatre, Potts Point
AKIO!, a modern day Wizard Of Oz story of sorts, follows a boy as he enters a world of his video games to find allies, enemies and wizards to work through quests to save a princess and gain confidence in the real world. Drawing on dance, martial arts, and Japanese theatre, AKIO! combines physical movement with audio visuals inspired from the games that AKIO! retreats to.
Matthew De Haas(Writer, Set Design) and Mariya Tkachenko's(Set Design) pixelated set of white grid floor and walls is dressed with black bordered white cubes of varying sizes as a class takes place. The severe teacher in black, Rin (Chanelle Freeland) presides over the class as personalities emerge with fights between the blue clad Akio (Kevin Clayette) and Yuuta(Aaron Sweeten) in red as belongings are confiscated including Akio's Gameboy. Akio's best friend Ane (Ellie May), in green, stands up to Yuuta after he bullies Akio whilst Harumi (Demitra Alexandria) in pink appears to be the good girl of the group.
As Akio's gameboy malfunctions, he finds himself tumbling into a pixelated world of his favourite games. As with Wizard of Oz, as Akio seeks to find a way out of the game, he needs to obtain items and complete a quest, meeting characters that seem very familiar, assisted by white clad spirits, drawing on Japanese mythology and theatre, holding the dual purpose of the spirits that guide Akio! and the Japanese theatre koken that provide set changes and on stage costume changes. .
Whilst Director Jade Alex has drawn her inspiration from contemporary pixel based video games like Minecraft, which will engage the target audience of 8 - 13 year olds, the music and graphics are also very familiar for older audiences that grew up with Mario Bros and similar games. Sound designer and Choreographer Vanessa Morrison has blended the sounds of the games with music to create a well-paced score with familiar audio cues with movement that is dynamic, utilizing Japanese martial arts references with storytelling and visual representations of familiar game moves such as jumping to reach boxes and spinning flowers. Julia Gorman (Costume Designer) has kept the costumes simple to ensure that the dual nature of the characters is clear with solid colors and basic adornments to the school uniforms as the children enter the virtual world. To further solidify the understanding of where the events are occurring, James O'Brien's AV Design varies from a classroom board to the pixelated game screens announcing challenges and providing narrative in the otherwise verbally silent production.
Clayette is endearing as Akio, conveying the image of a reclusive boy, lost in his games to avoid the class bully, who gains the courage to save his princess, and in turn, make friends with his dream girl. The spirits add an extra dimension to the performance as they each have a unique character and their energy moves the pace.
AKIO! Is an entertaining work for children that are of the age to be playing games like Minecraft, namely mid primary school children. As it draws on the pixelated games, it also provides a nostalgic moment for older audiences that grew up with the first generation of computer games. As with the Wizard of Oz, AKIO! is a story of bravery facing challenges, choosing peace over violence and having self-confidence and realizing that everyone has story and a reason for how they are.
Hayes Theatre, 19 Greenknowe Ave, Potts Point NSW
4 July - Sunday 12 July 2015
Performance Times: 11:00am, 2:30pm, 7:00pm (check website for details)