by Lynn on January 21, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Factory Studio Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written and performed by Tetsuro Shigematsu
Directed by Richard Wolfe
Set by Pam Johnson
Lighting by Gerald King
Costumes by Barbara Clayden
Sound by Steve Charles

A moving story of a son’s love for his family and especially his father.

In a way Empire of the Son is Tetsuro Shigematsu’s journey to get to know his secretive, private father and by extension, to know himself. His father saw unspeakable, indescribable things when he lived in Japan and the atomic bomb was dropped. The experience so affected his father he never wanted to talk about it to anyone. His son thought there was something hiding there but couldn’t pry it out of this father.

Shigematsu and his father shared much in their lives. His father was a host of a radio show for the BBC. Shigematsu had his own radio show for the CBC. Shigematsu’s parents came to Canada and successfully made a life and raised a family. Shigematsu also raised a family.

He is very dramatic looking with his impressive handlebar moustache. His manner is thoughtful, loving, perceptive and observant when describing his feelings and trepidation about growing up. His delivery is understated, even courtly. Good use is made of video cameras that project a close-up of Shigematsu’s fingers as they cross back and forth on a shiny (slippery?) surface.

And while the story of course is very personal and the telling is understated, I couldn’t help but think that the whole evening is dull with little variation or inflection in his voice. It’s as if Shigematsu is ticking items off an imaginary list as if to get rid of one thought after another. Director Richard Wolf keeps the pace moving, but because of lighting cues and the story-telling, I thought the show would conclude at least twice only to continue with another anecdote. This is an interesting, personal story to Shigematsu. I just wished it translated better to us.

A Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre Production presented by Factory Theatre.

Opened: Jan. 18, 2017.
Closes: Jan. 29, 2017.
Cast: 1 actor.
Running Time: 75 minutes.

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