The Epicene Butcher and Other Stories for Consenting Adults
Lo-fi, high-concept Japanese storytelling
This article is from 2013.
‘Before Pokemon, before Manga, before Hentai, there was …’ are the words written up on a blackboard at the start of this unusual show, correctly described in its press release as an ‘oddity’. Kamishibai is a form of lo-fi 1930s street entertainment from Japan; the word means ‘paper play’. Alongside her comely schoolgirl assistant, the colourful figure of Jemma Khan arrives on stage armed with a set of simple cardboard images which she displays through a wooden box, entertaining the audience with a frame-by-frame comic strip.
And entertaining it certainly is, but not for kids: cannibalism is the subject of the titular story The Epicene Butcher, which is about a chef whose taste for the finest choices of meat drives him to seek out cuisine involving human flesh.
Unfortunately, the chef falls for the girl he hopes to cook, leading to a grisly but satisfying finale. The other stories deal with pornography, what cats dream about when they’re in heat, the devastation after the nuclear explosion at Fukushima and all number of other surprising subjects. One is billed as ‘for perverts’ and has highly explicit content, but the show doesn’t rely on sex as a selling point, instead conveying an off-kilter energy in a Twilight Zone-meets-Studio Ghibli fashion. The final story is related in Japanese, yet somehow still gets the message across.
The stories, by Gwydion Beynon, often have a classical feel, like Zen master parables but interpreted through the mind of a teenager hopped-up on Manga cartoons. The result is weird, but also rather wonderful to behold. Not for everyone, but a fresh and decidedly original addition to the Fringe’s outer-limits.
Assembly George Square, 623 3030, until 26 Aug, (not 12) 7.20pm, £12–£13 (£11–£12).