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Review: Japan Marvelous Drummers at the Edinburgh Fringe

Review: Japan Marvelous Drummers at the Edinburgh Fringe

There is a lot to love about the Edinburgh Fringe. Our favourite aspect, however, has to be the sheer variety of entertainment available – this is a festival designed to suit anyone. One day you could be watching a fire eater on the rainy Royal Mile, the next enjoying high drama at one of Edinburgh’s plushest theatres. One afternoon you could be getting teased by twirling tassels in a grimy club basement, the next marvelling at the wonders of Japanese taiko drummers at the George Square Theatre.

In case you hadn’t guessed by that very specific last example – this is exactly how we spent the final Sunday of the Fringe – being transported from drizzly, dreich Scotland to Japan by the Japan Marvelous Drummers

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This award-winning show features the full gamut of traditional Japanese instruments: drums of all sizes, the Koto harp, and bamboo flutes and clarinets. Performances blend classical and modern taiko drumming (including original compositions by director Masaru Nishiguchi) with dance and the lightest smatterings of humour.

We’ve been to see our fair share of Japanese drumming shows before, and although we have always loved the music, we’ve been disappointed in the past by the over-use of slapstick comedy, which can detract from what is truly a stunning art form. Japan Marvelous Drummers tread this fine line to perfection.

If you’ve never been to see Japanese drumming before, the first thing that will hit you is the power. The stamina of these performers is breathtaking and watching them maintain this high-energy passion throughout the show (often while holding VERY HEAVY DRUMS) will make you rethink your gym membership. Why run when you could drum? Highlight for us was watching the dishy Andrij balance a drum so big that it took two troupe members to beat it! (That…and watching the steam rise off him as he took pictures with fans outside in the drizzle. Ooh la la…)

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Once you’ve got over your shock at their fitness level, you will be stunned by their synchronicity. Genetic clones could not have moved in greater harmony with each other. Intensely rhythmical, we challenge you not to feel uplifted as you watch them drum as one. Genuinely wonderful.

These energetic sections were broken up by hauntingly beautiful flute pieces and performances on the Koto harp which were mesmerising. Honestly, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions this show. It is impossible to leave not feeling moved.

Exhilarating and accomplished – this is a five-star show. Our one regret was not seeing it earlier on in the Fringe so we could have gone back again and again. Keep an eye out for this fantastic troupe, and put them at the top of your “To-See list” for next year.

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