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Netsuke and Inrō - Review

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by Jen (subscribe)
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Published September 22nd 2019
The saga of Gorō
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Image - Alex Theatre

Netsuke and Inrō for one night only at the Alex Theatre in St Kilda is about the impoverished samurai Gorō who makes a final visit to his favourite teahouse of dubious reputation. His whole life has been consumed by debauchery in the pleasure district of Yoshiwara in Japan's capital of Tokyo. He is shamelessly selfish and has used up the money meant to be set aside for his daughter. She makes an appearance on stage to be closer to her father, as she hides behind her mask, undiscovered by him.

On his final visit, an American trader named Mr Jenkins has an obsessive eye on his Netsuke and Inrō; a small ivory lion (Netsuke) and the lacquered box (Inrō) hanging off his sash while Gorō is distracted by his own obsessive desires. As an aside, the production uses an antique netsuke and inrō set crafted by skilled artisans in Japan.

This event is presented by Callum Watson Enterprises and works at combining elements of Japanese noh and kabuki with Italian opera. By composer and tenor Scott A. Aschauer, the elongated stage is simply set with a Japanese screen spread across, adorned by a cherry blossom painting.

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Writer's Image

Mr Jenkins, the American trader, is represented by an empty chair with a man's jacket hanging off it. Gorō's daughter is portrayed by a female performer who wears the hand-carved noh mask. There are no spoken words from her lips as the story is told through a screen projection. Gorō is the only verbal character while in front of the stage four musicians play live supporting the drama that unfolds.

On flute is Jennifer Timmins, Joel Hands-Otte - Bass Clarinet and Estelita Rae and Amogh Ananth on Violin. They are the saving grace to this whole show, especially Estelita on violin who was excellent and her interaction with Joel on the bass clarinet as they took their cues from each other, worked perfectly well.

It's a good thing as the AV was playing up and part of the storytelling was lost for words when it went on the blink for a while. The spiel advertising the event delivers far more than the actual show. It did not live up to the debauchery mentioned, bar lamenting the selfish spending at the teahouse, nor was the netsuke and inrō as prominent as it is in the title, as it hung barely visible. Being invisible, Mr Jenkins was also unable to fully project his obsession for his objects of desire.

The open door at the back of the stage was distracting, the blood-curdling scream coming from behind the stage seemed detached from the story as if it was out of context, and the one character presence on stage was not powerful enough to carry the whole show on their own as they at times wrestled with the costume, trying not to trip over.
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*Jen was invited as a guest
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Why? Netsuke and Inro Review
When: This is a review only for a one night only show on 21 Sep 2019
Where: Alex Theatre, 135 Fitzroy St, St Kilda, VIC
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