A Night at the Kabuki at Sadler’s Wells
Off the London West End, highly anticipated Japanese play A Night at the Kabuki welcomes a foyer buzzing with a multi-generational and international crowd. Acclaimed theatre director, playwright and actor Hideki Noda, with his intention to bring Japanese theatre to global audiences, takes the London stage for three autumn days and nights and connects the unimaginable dots between William Shakespeare’s well-loved Romeo a Juliet, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and the late 12th century Samurai age in Japan. The reimagined classical story plays with the aftermath of Romeo and Juliet’s disaster should they have survived, through modern theatrical devices, comical dialogue, extravagant Japanese costumes, loud music, dancing and even a little irony.
The first act of the play is undoubtedly the stronger half with a satirical introduction of social expectations around women’s swimming costumes that certainly offers a more layered dialogue than just jokes simply leaving the actors’ lips. As the star-crossed lovers’ familiar journey unfolds, Queen’s Love of My Life and You’re My Best Friend blast from the speakers, and samurai clans clash on the stage, just as the Capulets and Montagues did. The audience laugh, clap and then realise that they are invited to a familiar yet mysterious adventure. Utilising selfie sticks as weapons, sneaking in a joke about Japanese brand Muji, a play on words where Platinum is Mercury’s twin brother, and running around in breathtaking kimonos are just some elements that make the production colourful, brave and a unique experience for European audiences. Not to mention, this time, Romeo and Juliet are given a second chance, and finally survive and fall out of love.
It’s undeniably clear that the songs of Queen hold a special place in Noda’s heart, and that Freddie Mercury (as he did in the past)– would reciprocate the gesture towards the playwright, Japanese theatre and, not least, A Night at the Kabuki. After several curtain calls along a standing ovation, the audience leaves, and some rush to the stage doors to greet and celebrate the actors. Non-Japanese speakers will have only one wish left after a two-hour-50-minute play, which is that they would have learned a bit of Japanese in advance, only if for a night.
A Night at the Kabuki is at Sadler’s Wells from 22nd September until 24th September 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for the production here: