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The Bite by Atsuto Suzuki at Rich Mix – Review

Haruka Kuroda Leo Ashizawa Susan Momoko Hingley
The Bite: Haruka Kuroda Leo Ashizawa Susan Momoko Hingley – Credit Will Hudson photographer

If you are vegetarian, vegan or even a friend of these types of eaters, you might have something in common with Atsuto Suzuki’s reading of The Bite, which was shown at Yellow Earth’s festival, Typhoon. The festival came together as a celebration of Yellow Earth’s 21st anniversary and their continual dedication to present East Asian stage artists, directors and writers’ work. A variety of readings were performed ranging from different East Asian countries such as Korea, Singapore and China. They were shown at the Soho Theatre and Brick Lane’s Rich Mix for a duration of a week, filled with diverse readings and stories to share.

Last Saturday, audiences got a taste of food taboos and some fabulous theatre writing from Japan. Suzuki, the Tokyo born theatre director, playwright and founder of Inzou (Indian Elephant) Theatre Company, is known in Japan for introducing political scripts – but he is also a comedian, so here his political views were shown, seeped with curious humour, serious jokes while others were quite sarcastic.

His script, The Bite is a playful reading with a thoughtful and, almost, philosophical undertone written for a cast to re-enact eight unique but particularly strange characters. Written from the voice of Ano (Haruka Kuroda), she takes the audience on a fascinating journey stemming from her honeymoon with Ryohei (Chris Chan) who stumbles on the chance opportunity to eat Blue Sapphire Dolphin meat. Yet there are some complicated implications to consider. While Ano thinks it is a great idea, adding a unique touch to their honeymoon, Ryohei seems strongly against it.

In some countries, it is perfectly acceptable to eat dog, cat, horse and even dolphin, but who was the arbiter of taste? Who decided it was okay to eat pigs, cows, or chickens but not man’s best friend (dog) or dolphin? These are the kind of questions Suzuki is asking when we see and hear this reading.

On stage, Chan and Kuroda were marvellous as the foodie storytellers. Leo Ashizawa as Putin, the dolphin, gave a highly animated expression of the young bipedal mammal from the sea. His energy and enthusiasm as the innocent and vulnerable dolphin made it easy for the audience to pity and like him.

Alex Chang plays several characters but his leading role as Mr Inoguchi is quite a sight. Much like Putin, Inoguchi isn’t your every day character that you’d bump into the street. He’s a highly-strung meat obsessive with a hunger for any type of meat, which is demonstrated through Suzuki’s words on the irony of eating norms. And Susan Hingley was hilarious and versatile, picking up different accents as the caretaker and eccentric restaurant manager.

Franko Figueiredo, who is the founder of StoneCrabs Theatre Company, directed the reading, which bestowed Suzuki’s voice in a simple staging that flowed through a young, determined and gifted cast. The audience were laughing throughout yet deep in thought on how we justify eating meat but not other types e.g. human flesh. Engaging readings like The Bite can be effective and make audiences’ question the norm, especially if they are eloquently written from a perspective different from your own.

4 stars

Review by Mary Nguyen

A couple face the dilemma of what to do with their pet dolphin which appears to have escaped its tank…and grown a pair of legs! Japanese kitsch and dolphin are the flavour of the day with this satirical comedy of gourmet food obsessions.

Atsuto Suzuki is a playwright and theatre director born in Tokyo. Founder of Theatre Company INZOU (Indian Elephant), Suzuki started writing comedy scripts before moving onto full length plays that deal with social issues such as gender (Father’s Giving Birth), poverty and surrogate motherhood (Global Baby Factory) and food security (The Bite). His awards include the Japan Directors Association’s 2012 Young Director Award.

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