Absolutely nobody: I wonder what would happen if Romeo and Juliet was set to the music of Queen … with Samurai

Legendary playwright and director Hideki Noda OBE: A Night at the Kabuki anyone? 

© Alex Brenner

In late 12th century Japan, just as the age of the Samurai dawns, the rivalry between the Minamoto and Taira clans intensifies.

And Romeo and Juliet fall fatefully in love…

And Queen is playing…. 

Featuring the original recordings of Queen’s masterpiece ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘Love of My Life’ and ‘You’re My Best Friend’, and many more from the album; A Night At The Kabuki beautifully intertwines music, storytelling and Japanese stagecraft to create a wholly unique and unmissable show.

Takako Matsu, actress and pop singer, who was the voice of Elsa in the Japanese version of Frozen, plays Old Juliet (there are two but you’ll keep up don’t worry), she is funny, engaging and the heart of this piece. Suzu Hirose as Young Juliet is utterly compelling, you could not keep your eyes off her when she entered the stage. In any rendition of Romeo and Juliet she would be wonderful. Satoshi Hashimoto’s Monk is a comedic delight and Hideki Noda’s performance as Nurse is the epitome of energy and perfect timing. A stunning cast all round.  

The staging by Yukio Horio, consists of a horseshoe clean white backdrop of doors – reminiscent of a hospital ward – which creates the entrances and exists for all manner of locations. There is a crisp, clinical feel to it which transforms throughout the play into crowded parties and battlefields to the intimacy of Juliet’s bedroom. Hospital beds become ships, graves and with the use of a simple but beautifully executed white sheet, the means of changing our heroes into their older/younger selves. I genuinely don’t know how to do the set justice, it is masterful. A particularly impactful visual is the paper plane motif, highlighting lost messages and the role of miscommunication in this most beloved of tragic love stories.

Kodue Hibino’s vibrant costumes highlight our families feud, with signifier colours of red and blue, our couples moving between vibrant pinks and blues into grey as their life and love get torn apart.

© Alex Brenner

Shakespearean dialogue is beautifully intertwined with modern references as our story unfolds. What if Romeo and Juliet could change their fate? Our hapless heroes work behind the scenes to change their destiny. 

By the end of Act One Shakespeare takes his bow and Noda steps up. Act Two, our tale moves to focus on the warring clans, with Romeo and Juliet trying to find each other, although destiny seems to have other plans. Just when you start to wonder where we could be possibly going with this it suddenly all falls into place, ending as it began. It really was quite a stunning feat of storytelling.

A Night At The Kabuki is delightfully funny, and a beautiful reimagining of a classic with some of the greatest music ever written (in my humble opinion) You can’t beat Freddie Mercury’s vocals soaring around the theatre. 

Let’s address the length – it’s 3 hours, which for the seasoned ballet and opera fan amongst us is par for the course but for the frequenters of the one act play, just make sure you go to the loo first! 

I am not familiar with Japanese Kabuki as an art form but was utterly delighted by this performance and it has certainly inspired me to seek out more Japanese theatre and Hideki Noda’s works. 

An absolute feast for the eyes, utterly compelling – it’s worth a numb bum! 

Rating: 5 out of 5.


{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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