The art of Japanese storytelling

2012-08-03 14:43

Storytelling is an ancient human practice in every culture. We all read stories to our children and tell stories to one another. And Jemma Kahn really knows how to spin a good yarn.

The Epicene Butcher And Other Stories For Consenting Adults , one of the Fringe highlights of this year’s National Arts Festival, makes use of the Japanese storytelling art of Kamishibai.

This form of storytelling consists of a series of storyboards done in what we’d recognise to be a Manga-like drawing style.

It apparently originated on the streets of Japan in the 1930s as children’s theatre.

Kahn studied the art form in Japan and she has clearly learnt the art of the dramatic pause and how to hold a theatre full of people in thrall.

Perhaps what first grabs the audience’s attention, though, is that the first story is pornographic.

Indicated by her stage hand who, while dressed in a slutty schoolgirl outfit, licks a lollipop suggestively and then writes on a blackboard: “Perverts, this one’s for you.”

Sex sells, but Kahn’s skill ensures the audience doesn’t suffer from buyer’s remorse for a second of the show’s 50 minutes.

The other stories include a hilarious one about the dream life of cats and the tale of the title, of which you might have heard variations before – but you’ve never heard it told like this.

There’s even a South African story told in this style that is fresh and funny.

» The Wits 969 Festival is on from Tuesday until Saturday. Other shows on the bill include James Cairns in the brilliant Sie Weiss Alles. To book, visit – Gayle Edmunds

» Follow me on Twitter @GayleMahala

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