OzAsia Review: The Dark Inn

A meditative trip to a rural Japanese mountainside bath house is a weird but not so wonderful theatrical experience.

A puppeteer father and son team arrive at a seemingly unoccupied bath house in the Japanese mountains to perform a show. They are cold, emotionless figures who are slowly introduced to the bath house’s strange cast of inhabitants (who are intrigued by the duo as the father is a dwarf but the son is not). Proceedings get peculiar when the pair discover they weren’t invited to the unnamed bath house, even though they have a letter saying as much, as there are no owners and no one ever visits this secluded mountainside spot. But the big city Tokyo residents must spend the night with this strange bunch of characters as they are unable to get transport home until the morning.

Written and directed by Kuro Tanino, who also designed the incredible revolving four-stage set with Hiroo Nakai, The Dark Inn, which won The Kishida Kunio Drama Award, is breathtaking to look at but draining to experience. The surreal Dark Inn is like being trapped in limbo as the urban and soulless father and son team are unable to spiritually connect with their eccentric rural brethren. While The Dark Inn does take some interesting and absurd turns, this might be a case of lost in translation as the ponderous traditional vs modern, city vs rural and spiritual vs soulless themes failed to connect with this reviewer.

The Dark Inn was performed at Her Majesty’s Theatre on Tuesday, March 3. A final performance will happen on Wednesday, March 4 at 7pm at Her Majesty’s Theatre.


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