By Lina Bujupi


GAIJIN, written and directed by Martin Rice, is a compelling and thorough introduction to the world of Japanese theatre. It is set in Tokyo and tells the story of Adam (Sean Paisley-Collins), a foreigner, who embarks on a journey to attain his black belt in the martial art of Aikido. Accompanied by traditional Japanese music through Adrian Sherriff’s live score, GAIJIN draws you into the actions presented on stage.


In Rice’s direction, the traditional Japanese art of storytelling, martial arts and costuming evoke a true connection to Japanese culture, which all blend together when teamed with professional acting to demonstrate a story of perseverance and meaning in one’s own life.


The play begins with a suicidal attempt that captivated the audience and had them leaning over their seats. It continues on to display Adam’s position as a foreigner and the difficulties it presents in wanting to attain his black belt through his constant nightmares and inner turmoil. Paisley-Collins’ acting is respectable and highlights his ability to translate emotion through his facial expressions.


With the use of traditional Japanese storytelling, the scenes of the play are broken up with monologues, which allowed the audience to better understand the characters and the complexities associated with Japanese culture. In addition, the score, which included the use of clicking bars, affirmed to the audience the scene was over. Another would commence alongside the shakuhachi, which was elegantly constructed by Sherriff.


The play continues as Adam’s nightmares remain as dark forces attempting to sabotage his attempt in achieving the black belt, alongside his reconnection with Hiroko (Bec Varvaruc). Varvaruc’s performance is noble in the portrayal of the life of a Japanese woman, and iterates the hardships that are accompanied with it. Hiroko inevitably prevails when she doesn’t conform to the obligations imposed by her social standing. The coruscating lighting sequence creates a foreboding atmosphere that draws tension and suspense to further demonstrate and reflect Adam’s difficulties in completing his journey.



Hiroko (Bec Varvaruc). Photo: Gavin Ferrier


Whayu Kapa (Daruma) and Grace Pyone (Takahashi) give stunning performances through their voices and adaptation of characters. Their great costuming reveals their true craftsmanship in presenting a character that is seemingly good but ultimately the enemy. Similarly, the black backdrop added emphasis to the overall feel of the play and reflected Japanese culture beautifully with the hanging images and the use of the Daruma doll.


In the final scene, Rice’s direction is intense and pays homage to the traditional style of Japanese sword fighting. Keam-Mar Lai and David Lieu display skilful swordsmanship in the play’s climactic ending. Shown with true discipline to their art form, their performances were significant to GAIJIN.



Taro (Peter Noic).


However, GAIJIN is not without its flaws. Rice could have implemented more dialogue and action between characters as the scenes were short. More drama and suspense could have filled the scenes and added to the overall plot. The stage’s size unfortunately created restrictions that limited direction in the final fighting scene, which could have been developed further.


Yet, GAIJIN is a spectacular show that I would definitely watch again.


July 13 – 16
Metanoia Theatre
The Mechanic’s Institute, 270 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
$30 General Admission; $25 Concession/under 30s


Lina Bujupi is a professional writing student at Victoria University and enjoys reading just as much as writing, accompanied by a great cup of tea.

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