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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Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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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).

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