Kwaidan at Tobacco Factory Theatre

A show inspired by Japanese ghost stories and horror movies was always going to be creepy. Add to that life sized puppets, acting, film, eerie music and moving objects and you have Kwaidan, a piece of theatre that keeps your eyes darting around the Tobacco Factory Theatre stage, wondering where the next spooky effect is coming from.

Part of this year’s Bristol Festival of Puppetry #BFP17, a biennial event lasting 10 days, Rouge28 Theatre’s Kwaidan is story of memory and loss that both unsettles and delights the audience. In the role of Haya, a woman who has returned to her long-abandoned family home, performer Aya Nakamura is adept at slipping in and out of character, constantly manipulating her puppets – one with a terrifying glassy stare and a haunted face, the other a chilling young girl, who flits about the set, reminding Haya of her traumatic childhood. Helped behind the scenes only by Gilbert Taylor, Nakamura helps tell of Haya’s awful past in a style sleek enough for you to imagine there are several unseen cast members rather than just these two – a nod to Paul Piris’ solid direction and sound/video design and Nao Nagi’s lighting.

Some of the methods used work very well indeed – we loved the use of the television and lights to represent Club Tchin Tchin, for example. However, we would like to have seen less action in parts because the blank spaces were disturbing enough to have stretched more suggestion out of them and might have left the audience hanging that little bit longer in a case of good old ‘less is more’ – fewer effects for more effect. That aside, Kwaidan is definitely a show worth seeing.


Bristol Festival of Pupptry runs until 10th September

Kwaidan is currently on tour

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