#EdFringe: Tokyo Rose – Review
A unique, brand new musical based on one of the most controversial post WWII trials in the US – Iva Toguri d’Aquino vs. the United States on eight counts of treason.
Where is home, if no country wants you?
The real story of Iva Toguri d’Aquino, of Japanese heritage but American birth and citizenship, and how she was abandoned between the two countries during WWII. A huge story of ‘us and them’ with an all female cast, Tokyo Rose dazzles from the first moment of the show.
This is a relatively unknown story of a proud American woman caught between the war, and trying to do her duty to her country. After travelling to Japan to visit an ailing relative, World War II breaks out and she is denied her American passport application and her return home to America after the attack on Pearl Harbour. Refusing to denounce her American citizenship, she was declared an enemy alien, and began to fend for herself, ending up working at Radio Tokyo broadcasting propaganda (or so they say). Instead, her broadcasts were full of double entrendres, jokes and using American slang and playing American music.
Following Japan’s surrender, Toguri is arrested following a newspaper interview that would have provided enough money to return home to America, and detained for over a year. When she eventually returned to the US, she faced a trial on eight counts of treason and was eventually found guilty, despite all of the contrary evidence presented and inconsistencies in the US’s case against her.
Maya Bristo as Iva holds the show together with her incredibly performance, as angry, emotional, energetic and with stunning vocals. A rallying cry of pride, nationalism and equality against racism runs through the show, and Bristo navigates it perfectly.
The ensemble cast of Lucy Park, Yuki Sutton, Cara Baldwin and Hannah Benson change characters with ease, and handle the vocals well but are sometimes a bit ‘shouty’, for lack of a better word.
The story is sort of hard to follow, as it crams so much into the short time, however it has such potential and with a little bit of work it will be an outstanding piece – the show is so fast paced and loud that there’s very little time to breathe, not a lot of slow songs, or quieter moments to balance out the excellent rock and roll sound. It’s well sound-scaped, but has an overpowering effect of being shouted at for an hour, or a bit like a rock and roll concert and you feel a bit deaf after.
The set is clever, the cast are talented, the music is great – this show is a gem and is ready to be shined up and transformed into the best possible version of the show. Let’s hope that happens when the show heads to London later this year, as it is such a stunning historical piece, and a well deserving winner of the Untapped Award by Underbelly and New Diorama Theatre.
Tokyo Rose played at Underbelly Cowgate until 25 August. More Info.
You can see Tokyo Rose at New Diorama Theatre in London in October – More info.