In case you managed to miss the buzz about it, Japanese samurai-meets-theatre-meets-musical spectacular – Kuli Kala, Revenge of the Samurai – is showing for this week only at the Stratford Circus theatre in East London. The last performance is the evening of Saturday 28 November, so there’s still time to get your tickets!
Those of you who are familiar with Japanese entertainment in general (whether that’s anime, film or theatre) – will be aware that ‘over-dramatising’ and spectacle is key. So, how could a musical about samurai and ninjas doing battle with Oda Nobunaga not excite a lot of Japanophiles in the UK?
As it happens, Kuli Kala has made its worldwide debut in London. This new play is composed of five acts by Japanese playwright Nobuhiro Mouri and producer Toshihiko Sahashi (self-proclaimed fans of The Beatles and Led Zeppelin) who were inspired after a visit to London to bring something ‘far eastern’ to the British stage. Their stage company, 30-DELUX, worked tirelessly on a project combining ‘ta-te’ swordfighting and kick-ass music… and the result was Kuli Kala, Revenge of the Samurai.
In just under two hours (with no interval – not that you’ll want one), the performance follows the story of Isshin, a samurai, and three ninja women who are the reincarnations of ancient goddesses, in their quest to defeat Oda Nobunaga (he of historical samurai fame/infamy). In his quest to become immortal and rule over the world, Oda is seeking the power of the three goddesses to reawaken the terrifying power of the demon Kuli Kala. It’s your typical ‘hero’s quest’ type story, so perfect for fans of series such as Final Fantasy or pretty much any fantasy anime. Although the story is told in a very ‘story book’ fashion initially (there is quite a bit of exposition at the beginning of the play), it all kicks off when the swords clash.
As you should know by now, I’m a massive Sengoku era and samurai fan, so I was looking forward to bountiful martial arts and swordfighting scenes. I wasn’t disappointed. The choreography in the sword fights is fantastic and, of course, the best is reserved for the epic ‘final battle’. The swordfighting is set to a brilliant soundtrack – a blend of east and west fusion music – and accompanied by two singers (male and female) who help to move the story and drama along. Our two unique singers are the JQ-B band, specifically chosen by the directors to express the multi-layered musical world of Kuli-Kala.
The stage of Stratford Circus is fairly small but is brought alive by the action scenes and digital scenery projected onto the background. I was impressed by what was achieved in a fairly small place, and hope we can see other performances replicated like this again… preferably by 30-DELUX! Special mention goes to Masaru Mori, who plays a very mad-looking and over-the-top Oda Nobunaga.
Overall, I really enjoyed Kuli-Kala and highly recommend it to theatre fans and Japan fans alike. Performances like this don’t come to London often and it’s well worth the high-octane experience! You can get your tickets over on the Stratford Circus website – starting at just £10!