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The Theatreguide.London Review

Harajuku Girls
Finborough Theatre   Spring 2015

Harajuku Bridge in Tokyo is, we are told, where teenage girls go, dressed as their favourite Manga or TV cartoon show characters, to hang out, meet boys and let tourists photograph them. 

This activity proves ironically to be a good preparation for the next stage in the lives of two girls in Francis Turnly's new play, as they drift almost passively from high school into prostitution, working in a brothel that delivers sexy cops, virginal brides and naughty schoolgirls on demand. 

That drift is the subject of Turnly's play, as one girl has no hesitation at all in welcoming a way to buy herself the little luxuries and the drugs she wants, while another has to convince herself it's just a temporary expedient to raise the tuition money for drama school. 

It's not a particularly successful play. We never get too far inside either girl, and have to guess or just accept on trust how they feel about what they're doing. The inevitable melodramatic twist that turns everything dark isn't well set up or presented, while a digression into the back story of one girl's parents seems arbitrarily pasted in. 

Actually the brief glimpses we get of the sad little salarymen with dead end jobs who would rather spend an hour in the brothel than go home to their wives and families carry more pathos and hints of real drama than the main story. 

The play is not helped by performances that range from community theatre level downward. 

The actors no need to name are all professionals, so much of the blame for the wooden recitations, missed cues, mistimings, impression of not being sure where they're meant to stand or what to do with their arms and, for a couple, seeming discomfort speaking English must be laid at the feet of director Jude Christian, who is also responsible for the particularly unclear staging of one key scene of violence. 

The Finborough Theatre has an admirable record of discovering and presenting new plays, and must be allowed a rare stumble. Harajuku Girls is one.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Harajuku Girls - Finborough Theatre 2015

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