Anjin: The Shogun and The English Samurai

2013-1-10

This slightly strange play tells the stories of William Adams), the first Englishman to reach Japan, and Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It is the story behind James Clavell's Shōgun), if you remember that (and I do).

Anjin is a hybrid Anglo-Japanese production. Half of it is in English, half is in Japanese. The play is well staged and the acting is good.

The difficulty is in deciding what the play is really about. Adams and Tokugawa are contemporaries, but their lives are very different. Focusing on both of them makes the play feel a bit disjointed. Is it an epic history of Japan? There are plenty of stage battles (admittedly, pretty cool). Is it about overcoming unusual circumstances? There are plenty of fish-out-of-water comedy moments. Overall, its hard to say.

Europeans are portrayed much worse than the Japanese. Mostly, they are either drunken clowns or sneaky priests, which sells the Europeans short. Getting in a wooden tub and sailing to the other side of the world takes a lot of courage and skill, just as much as lopping off heads with a katana.

Anjin: The Shogun and The English Samurai was at Saddler's Wells from 31st of January until the 9th of February, 2013


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