Bonenkai (3 stars)

This article is from 2014


Dynamic musical theatre based on Japanese drinking celebration at Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Named for the Japanese drinking celebration – essentially an end of year blow-out designed for blocking out the past year's woes – Bonenkai is an energetic display with a cast that doubles as a vigorous live band. With little plot or character development (one character is dispatched, another corrupted), Bonenkai is closer to a song cycle in format, meditating on the simple matter of chasing oblivion.

The cast, however, are a strong ensemble: they all have their solo number, but operate best in the interactions between their characters. The demented ring-master, and his supply of drugs; the sour chanteuse; the tap-dancing seductress: the action is built up through subtle conflicts and arguments, while the straight-laced new arrival is gradually drawn into their gang.

The manic dynamism that drives the production does undermine any narrative coherence. Vignettes hint at past relationships, now soured, and the surrealism, marked out by the timelessness of the location and the various characters' idiosyncratic outfits, prevents any consistent development. The moral ambiguity of the titular club is explored, hinting that, for all its gaiety, Club Bonenkai is a more sinister proposition than the laughing clients would have themselves believe.

Yet the enthusiasm and talent of the cast makes this a worthy attempt to bridge the gap between music gig and theatre: despite the title, this is a night to remember.

Underbelly Cowgate,0844 545 8252, until 24 Aug, 11.30, £9–£10 (£8–£9).


  • 3 stars

The Letter Room Today is a day to forget everything. An unforgettable celebration of forgetting. And it has to be a party. You're invited, for one night only, to the magnificent Club Bonenkai, where the giggle water is cheap and nights are long. Party away your troubles, and forget the outside world. Who knows, maybe…