Old Fitz Theatre, November 1


Mayu Iwasaki. Photos. Phil Erbacher.

The play transforms itself in a moment, just as the lives of everyone in Hiroshima were either ended on transformed at 8:15 am on August 6, 1945. Until this moment, Hisashi Inoue’s gentle drama has a father and daughter discussing all that’s little or large in her life in Hiroshima, three years after the detonation of the first atomic bomb. This still looms over them, making storms – with their white flashes and thunderclaps – terror.

She is Mitsue (Mayu Iwasaki), a 23-year-old librarian. Her father, Takezo (Shingo Usami), we gradually come to realise, is not really there. He might be a ghost, or he might live in her mind and heart – places riddled with guilt because she survived the blast and he didn’t.

Takezo is as practical, wise, humorous and caring as he was when alive; keen for Mitsue to find the happiness that will render his presence redundant. The fastest path to that felicity – apart from learning to forgive herself for being one of those to live – would be if she accepted the advances of a young man who frequents the library, singling Mitsue out with gifts, such as a bean jam bun. Her suitor seeks information about the effects of the bomb, but the occupying army prohibits such material.

Mayu Iwasaki and Shingo Usami. Photos: Phil Erbacher.

The transformation comes when Takezo tells us of the heat that the bomb generated, which was twice as hot as the surface of the sun, the fireball instantly erasing or melting everything it hit – and that was before the shockwave and the radiation.

Inoue, who died in 2010, renders the enormity of the catastrophe in tiny details and personalised impacts. His play (caringly translated by Roger Pulvers) is about the way we negate our humanity in the name of war, and it is also about the nature of story-telling. Mitsue and Takezo are kind, likable people, played with great warmth by Iwasaki and Usami, with the latter also co-directing the production with David Lynch. You sense that the actors, who are still occasionally insecure in their lines, will grow further into the roles, and audiences will feel for and be charmed by their characters all the more. Japanese theatre has been ignored here, so this was a brilliant choice of play, and further evidence that Red Line Productions is Sydney’s most widely questing company.