Bonenkai

Bonenkai is a Japanese term meaning “forget the year gathering.” A party to let your hair down and lose the baggage of the year gone by. What The Letter Room have done is taken this concept and - through the excess and abandon of a mysterious 20s nightclub, Club Bonenkai - explored what it means to forget. After an hour of their frenzied musical story, you may well leave the theatre feeling that everything at the Fringe so far has proved insubstantial, like a year lost to you.

Meghan Doyle’s singer Violet deserves a special mention for her sustained “chronic bitch-face” and the unprecedented power of her furious solo: she’s an incredible hyena of the stage.

The play charts the entrance of a new visitor and the loss of her identity among the shady club-members, telling each character’s old stories as a new one is forged in front of you. But the company’s flyer is completely on the money when it claims, ‘We tell stories, but not always as you’d expect them, we make noise and we throw shapes.’ While there is a gripping plot, it is never allowed to take precedence over the noise, the force of their live presence. The cast’s versatility is apparent in their range of physical, vocal and instrumental talents and their ability to maintain a thrilling tension. The songs are enthralling and well-matched by moments of smart, fierce choreography. The rhythms are pure hypnotism. The audience were so won over that even a passing possibility of rape gets a wild laugh: a dangerously seductive show.

The host and hostess exert an unnerving familial yet predatory control over the proceedings as Bea stutters her way to complete freedom and hapless Fitz attempts to create a connection of his own. Maria Croeker as the tap-dancing Tilly is a wonderful blend of bubblegum energy and childlike incomprehension. Meghan Doyle’s singer Violet deserves a special mention for her sustained “chronic bitch-face” and the unprecedented power of her furious solo: she’s an incredible hyena of the stage.

These performances are all the more impressive for the lack of director or writer. Rather than fitting to a single person’s vision, they have built a collective experience from the ground up, feeding in their respective strengths to create a piece of true quality. The only thing that might have clinched Bonenkai even more is placing it in a real nightclub venue – but the performance will distract you well enough. This is a show you do not want to forget.

Reviews by Henry St Leger

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Today is a day to forget everything. An unforgettable celebration of forgetting. And it has to be a party. You're invited, for one night only, to the magnificent Club Bonenkai, where the giggle water is cheap and nights are long. Party away your troubles, and forget the outside world. Who knows, maybe you'll want to forget forever. With raucous live music, tap dancing and a distinct visual style, Northern Stage's associate company The Letter Room bring you their brand new show. ‘One of the most vibrant and engaging entries into the theatre circuit in years’ (WhatsOnStage.com, 2013).