Shun-kin - Review

Complicite’s staging of Shun-kin showcases beautiful puppetry interwoven with actors, to plunge deep into the murky world of violence, horror and love – at the Barbican in Silk Street, EC2

IN A DARK stark room which feels like it’s out the back of a shop, a middle aged woman enters the scene and settles down at a desk centre stage.

She lays a manuscript out in front of her and begins to read into a microphone which hangs from the ceiling above.

It’s already familiar Complicite territory - the brief opening and closing of the door reveals blinding light and noises that are suggestive of the bustling activity of the outside world, and by shutting it behind her again, our narrator prepares us to escape to the story of Shun-Kin in shadowy early 19th century Japan.

Based on Jun’ichiro Tanizaki’s A Portrait of Shunkin written in 1933, Complicite director Simon McBurney tells the story of Japanese servant Sasuke and his devotion to the masochistic and beautiful Shunkin, a blind music teacher.


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And there are typical Complicite visual feats - the use of minimal props and physicality to portray the size and shape of a room, beautiful puppetry interwoven with actors, such that it’s hard to distinguish between the two, abstract projections on the back wall and repetitive sounds, in this case from the shamisen, a Japanese stringed instrument that’s plucked with a plectrum.

As ever with Complicite, it’s beautiful, engrossing and imaginative stuff that plunges us deep into the murky world of violence, horror, and love.

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