Sweet and surreal vignettes of bleakness and hope from Lecoq-trained The Krumple
It is maddening trying to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes the performers of Yōkai so touchingly funny. They emerge in skin-coloured unitards, genderless little sprites of creativity and mischief, busying themselves about setting their stage with no regard for disguising the magic. One makes a noisy stickytape loop like a giant crime scene outline, another brandishes a dry ice button with glee and puffs out wisps of smoke.
Yōkai (in their most basic incarnation) are phantoms in Japanese folklore, ranging from the malevolent to the benevolent, and have been adopted by geographically eclectic theatre group The Krumple – members are from Norway, France and the US – to tell interwoven surrealist tales of despair and redemption.
So much of this show is dependent on the surprise elements of sweetness / bleakness that to say more would be to spoil the wizardry. But there is originality in bucketloads here. You will not guess the shape of or twists in each vignette, and yet they are strangely rounded and satisfying, if slight.
There is something that doesn't quite hang together as a whole about the piece, which, like its more brilliant moments, is hard to put your finger on. But the way the Yōkai shift and manipulate their tiny wood and paper replicas of the world in between scenes does make you wonder where they might be moving around the pieces in your own life.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 28 Aug, 1.30pm, £10–£11 (£9–£10).