Review: One Green Bottle at Soho Theatre London

Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre Director Hideki Noda brings One Green Bottle to the stage this May, reuniting some of the cast of his 2012 play The Bee. Kathryn Hunter, Glyn Pritchard and Noda himself step back onto the boards of Soho Theatre to provide us with an hour and a bit of high energy comedy capers all rounded off with a genuine dollop of emotion.

Image © Helen Maybanks and Soho Theatre

Image © Helen Maybanks and Soho Theatre

It’s evening and father Bo, mother Boo and daughter Pickle all want to go and enjoy a night out on the town. The problem is, they’ve all planned separate activities and someone has to stay in and look after imminently expectant dog Princess. An unwillingness to compromise quickly escalates into full blown arguments, physical altercations and deception until the family seal their own fate and have to suffer the disastrous consequences. 

The cross dressing trio gel well together on stage, with their exaggerated quirks and zany costumes combining to create an atmosphere of colourful absurdity. As a ‘master of the classical stage’ kabuki actor Hunter delivers Shakespeare-like mini monologues, with her small stature clashing perfectly with larger than life comedic delivery. Noda dressed in a colourful kimono, neon socks and a poodle-esque perm plays the Japanese housewife while Glyn Pritchard is Pickle, a six foot something teenager complete with purple wig, Harajuku style clothing and a sheep backpack. 

The references to traditional noh and kabuki theatre are weaved throughout, from the set and costume design to the script itself. The play hints at a commentary on the struggle between time honoured Japanese traditions and a more modern Japan, although this is never explicit. The family try to appeal to each others sense of honour to get their own way, although this essentially fails as they blindly become victims of their own selfish desire to go and enjoy their own fun night out. The physical fights morph into Japanese noh style theatre while just offstage, kabuki musician Denzaemon Tanaka XIII provides traditional sound bites that mix with modern electronic effects.

A lot of the laughs are generated from the utter craziness of it all and if you’ve ever been part of a high spirited family, many of the antics may seem entirely relatable too. The energy is ramped up to fever pitch until it’s all dialled down for the finale. When the laughter subsides and the story takes a darker more sinister turn, we’re left with a genuinely emotional ending, and offered a couple of moral takeaways that give food for thought. Just how far will we go to get our own way, is our reliance on modern technology taking over from genuine relationships with family, and are Japanese traditions slowly becoming less important in a modern age?

One Green Bottle is showing at Soho theatre until 19 May. Box office: 0207 478 0100.