Tokyo Rose (3 stars)

Tokyo Rose

Musical excavates the important and timely story of Iva d'Aquino

In 1941, a young American woman named Iva Toguri set sail from California to Japan, sent by her mother to care for her ailing aunt. Soon after, Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbour and the United States entered the war; Iva thus found herself stranded in a foreign country and abandoned by her home. And yet, despite manifold pressure from the Japanese government, Iva refused to renounce her American citizenship, and spent the war working as a broadcaster for Radio Tokyo.

Theatre company Burnt Lemon does an immensely admirable job of condensing the tangled web of Iva's story into an hour-long musical, cleverly weaving together her life in Japan with the legal circus Iva endured upon her return to the US after the war. Maya Britto is excellent as resilient Iva, and Cara Baldwin gives a delightfully villainous turn as Tom DeWolfe, the racist lawyer determined to see her behind bars. The choreography is slick throughout as five actors whirl through a wide cast of characters, highlighting the various competing agendas that went into creating the infamous myth of 'Tokyo Rose'.

Unfortunately, the show's main weakness is the music itself: aside from the opening refrain, the songs lack a catchy hook, perhaps because so much historical exposition is being crammed into the lyrics. With a bit more development on the songwriting and a longer running time, however, Tokyo Rose will easily be able to break through the static.

Underbelly Cowgate, until 25 Aug, 6.55pm, £11–12 (£10–£11).

Tokyo Rose

  • 3 stars

Burnt Lemon Theatre / Untapped by Underbelly and New Diorama Turn back the dial to 1949. Iva d'Aquino stands accused of treason in one of the most controversial trials in American history. Faced with accusations of peddling Axis propaganda, Iva becomes known as the notorious Tokyo Rose – but was she the villain she was…

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