It may be a challenge to understand Japanese sub-culture, but that doesn’t mean Fringers will have any trouble figuring out whether the players are winners or losers in the life-and-death game that is Hanafuda Denki — A Tale of Playing Cards.
The play, based on “a very Japanese kind of Threepenny Opera,” was first written and staged in 1967 by avant-garde pioneer Shuji Terayama. Yet the 12-actor version coming to Victoria Fringe, created by Tokyo’s internationally acclaimed Ryuzanji company, makes it modern with dramatic costumes, elaborate makeup and ghostly illusions.
“One of the first performances of this play was set to go on the night of the big earthquake in Japan last year,” says Claire Tanaka, Ryuzanji’s translator and interpreter. “We didn’t know whether to put it on or not. Was it appropriate? But we decided yes — the messages were truer than ever.”
The play combines the serious tone of life-and-death with light-hearted jokes based around a popular card game in Japan. Yet the real story surrounds a funeral home director, his daughter and his dead staff.
“Of course, it’s impossible to expect people will get all of the references … but it does become easy to interpret what is going on,” says Tanaka. “We’ve heard a lot of people see this show and say it has left them with a new perspective on death. Some people have said they are not afraid of dying now.”
Drama with music
All Ages Tickets $11/$9
Metro Studio Theatre (1411 Quadra)
Tue, Aug 28, 6:30pm
Wed, Aug 29, 6:30pm
Thu, Aug 30, 10:30pm
Fri, Aug 31, 9:15pm
Sat, Sep 1, 8:15pm
Sun, Sep 2, 2:00pm
More Fringe Previews Here:
Burnt At the Steak (Carolann Valentino Productions, NY, NY)
The Cockwhisperer — A Love Story (Hamilton, ONT)
Little Lady (Sandrine Lafond inc., Las Vegas, NV)
Beautiful Obedient Wife (The Chicken my Grandmother Gave Me Productions, Victoria, BC)
Redheaded Stepchild — (Nobody’s Business Theatre, Toronto, ONT)