OzAsia Festival Theatre Review: Yasukichi Murakami – Through a Distant Lens

Through a Distant Lens

A docu-drama about the impact that Japanese-Australians had on our country, specifically Yasukichi Murakami, a Japanese photographer who left a lasting legacy.

Through a Distant LensPresented by Adelaide Festival Centre in association with Darwin Festival and Shinju Matsuri Festival
Reviewed 9 September 2014

Through a Distant Lens is a story about the forgotten. The positive impact that Japanese-Australians had on our country has long since been overshadowed by the horror of war, but some still hear their voices.

Writer Mayu Kanamori and director Malcolm Blaylock have created a heartfelt tribute to those forgotten people, specifically to Yasukichi Murakami, a Japanese photographer who left a lasting legacy in Broome and the wider country.

Mayu Kanamori became fascinated by Murakami’s story some time ago and has been researching his life ever since. She has gathered many of Murakami’s original photos and stories from his descendents, creating an in-depth on-stage documentary.

This is more than just a documentary though. It is an astoundingly creative piece, using multi-media, acting and interviews.

Arisa Yura portrays Mayu, recounting her search for evidence in a beautiful way. Although there are parts in which her acting lacks emotion and intensity, she is an incredibly practiced performer. Kuni Hashimoto, who portrays Murakami, is more of a force of nature. Terumi Narushima provides some eerie back up music created through unique instruments, one of which is made from the cogs and springs from a grandfather clock.

The actors manage to interact with the various conflicting elements of the performance well. For instance, at one point Yura begins talking with the ghost of a Murakami relative who is projected onto the screen behind her. This creates a ghostly, otherworldly effect, as if the play is transcending time and space.

Many performances have used projected images as part of their storytelling technique, but Yasukichi Murakami – Through a Distant Lens is definitely one of the strongest examples of this style. The projected images (apart from a few old photographs) are very high quality, which draws us into the world of the story. A scene depicting the bombing of Darwin was actually one of the most impressive and most shocking I’ve seen on stage, even though nothing is shown on screen but fire. In that moment the whole stage seems to come alight and the sound of bombing fills the whole venue. It’s hard to explain the effect this sudden change has on you, suffice to say that it made me feel suddenly in danger.

Despite all the creativity and the beautiful production values though, I do have to admit that, particularly in the middle of the performance, I was less than engaged. The middle of the play seems to droop as all the interesting bits, all those “Wow” moments, came either at the very beginning or very end.

Yasukichi Murakami – Through a Distant Lens is a creative and informative piece of documentary theatre. It’s interesting to see how truth can be mixed with fiction to create unique stories, especially on stage where documentary stories are a relatively rare breed. This show is a great tribute to an amazing man, his family and all those Japanese Australians who suffered during wartime.

Reviewed by James Rudd

Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Rd
Season: 9 – 10 September 2014
Duration: 1 hour 15 mins
Tickets: $20.00 – $40.00
Bookings: Book through the OzAsia Festival website or phone BASS on 131 246


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