Tokyo Rose

Tokyo Rose is a complex story, told phenomenally well by a company quickly proving itself to be one of the hottest theatre groups in the country. Spinning a bona fide crowdpleaser out of an intricate and morally complex war crimes trial is no easy feat. And neither is constructing a watertight, hard-hitting musical in the style of Hamilton and Six that plays itself out over just one hour. Tokyo Rose is both these things and more, and is testament to the skill and undoubted fearlessness of its creators Burnt Lemon Theatre.

Tokyo Rose will be the next breakout musical hit of the Edinburgh Fringe.

Returning to the Fringe after their cult hit The Half-Moon Shania, the three-piece have ramped everything up tenfold. The punk spirit and catchy hooks are still there, but now the production is slick, the design is flawless and the performances are even more powerful. Telling the true story of Iva d'Aquino, a woman accused of being a propaganda-peddling disc jockey during the Second World War, Tokyo Rose gives her backstory via numerous character tangents and a full trial. It provides as much of a well-rounded story as it can without completely bursting at the seams, and though one may have to browse a wikipedia page to pick up on any nuances they missed, the energy and electricity of the show and performances carries the audience over any missed moments.

The performances are consistently stunning throughout in terms of style and characterisation. Maya Britto is undoubtedly a star in the making, embuing every moment of her performance as the woman on trial with eyecatching power. Given the majority of the spotlight and numerous solos, she earns every second she is given and then some, powering the momentum through some of the more exposition-heavy segments. Smaller roles from Hannah Benson (also director) and Cara Baldwin (also co-writer) are thrillingly punchy, with Benson's charismatic turn as the villainous Walter Winchell perhaps the standout moment of the production.

The show requires your full attention from the very first moment, and makes little effort to bring audiences up to speed once it gets up-and-running - so your full attention is crucial. The only flaws in this show come from deep within the production side, as the cavernous venue means that words and phrases get lost in the sound mix, which can occasionally prove crucial. A key character is given a thick British estuary accent which helps define them, but the performer occasionally struggles to enunciate while maintaining the breakneck speed of her delivery, leaving the audience struggling with context clues as to what they said.

Once this show gets the budget and room it deserves, (and it ought to, given the sold out standing ovation it recieves), all this can be ironed out. Once it is, Tokyo Rose will be the next breakout musical hit of the Edinburgh Fringe.

Reviews by Charlie Ralph

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★★★★
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Turn back the dial to 1949. Iva d'Aquino stands accused of treason in one of the most controversial trials in American history. Faced with accusations of peddling Axis propaganda, Iva becomes known as the notorious Tokyo Rose – but was she the villain she was made out to be? Five female wartime disc jockeys spit piercing verse in a rap-packed musical broadcast going live in 5, 4, 3... From the team behind The Half Moon Shania: 'Best Musical Award 2018' ***** (MusicalTheatreReview.com). **** (Stage). **** (BroadwayBaby.com). New Diorama Theatre and Underbelly Untapped Award 2019.

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