See The Twelfth Night in KABUKI Style at Victoria Fringe Festival

The Twelfth Night

Victoria Fringe festival is one of the oldest Fringe festivals in Canada and they are back again this year with over 300 performances from all over the world for the next 11 days. It is one of my favourite annual events in Victoria and my husband and I have been looking forward to this year’s too.

I am thrilled that my favourite Japanese troupe is coming back to Victoria Fringe – RakuJuku with Show Ryuzanji.This will be RakuJuku’s first time in Canada.

We saw Hanafuda Denki from Ryuzanji Company last year and LOVED it. I saw it twice, my husband saw it three times. It was something I have never seen before. The year, Mr. Ryuzanji is bringing RakuJuku.

RakuJuku can be loosely translated as “Having Fun Troupe”. It was created by Show Ryuzanji in 1997 who wanted to have fun with “regular” people with a lot of experience in life – people over the age of 45. Now RakuJuku is well known as a pioneer of senior acting troupes, which is quite popular in Japan. The members of RakuJuku believe that watching something joyful makes you happy. I believe so too!

This year, they’re bringing an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night to Fringe. The original story is about two shipwrecked twins who get separated upon arrival on a shore. Each has their own adventures including multiple love triangles. The adaptation by Ryuzanji is named “The Twelfth Night in KABUKI Style” and set in old time Japan. Energetic actors with an average age of 61(!) will perform in Japanese with English subtitles. There will be original music and dance in gorgeous kimono costumes. You won’t be bored with this Shakespeare! I’ve been following their Japanese blog and I know they ran this in Tokyo (This is not their first year of this particular production, They’ve done The Twelfth Night few times already and we are getting an improved version.) and been sold out pretty much every day.

Ryuzanji won the Best of Fringe Award in 2000 with Educating Mad Persons and the Pick of the Fringe Award in 2012 with Hanafuda Denki.

The troupe is arriving this weekend. Show starts on August 27th (Venue: Metro Studio) Be prepared to arrive early, as their shows often sell out.


Few weeks ago, Mark and I went to see Hanafuda Denki by Ryuzanji company, from Japan, as part of Victoria Fringe Festival. Hanafuda Denki – The Tale Of Playing Cards is written by Japanese avant-garde writer Shuji Terayama and first performed in 1967. In short, it’s a Japanese Nightmare Before Christmas—set in a funeral house, almost everyone in the show is dead. It was hilarious, fascinating and a fantastical kind of Threepenny Opera. We loved it so much I saw it twice and Mark saw it three times. We started following Ryuzanji Company on Twitter and Facebook. I bought their T-shirt and I even offered to help out with promotion should they come to Victoria again. We became huge fans.

When I bought the T-shirt, I got the opportunity to talk with Yumi, one of the actors in the troupe. I asked her many questions. Their show was so tight, I figured they must have been playing for a long time. She said they have played Hanafuda before but this is their second run as they tweaked this show for the World Tour. She said, “We still have meeting after each show. There is always a room for improvement.”

One of the reasons I loved them so much was that their performance was in the state of the art. Two shows I saw were word-for-word, movement-for-movement, exactly the same. Both performances were so strong, and they talk and move with such confidence, it grabs you from your seat and sucks you into their world of the dead. They were pros.

Even after they left Victoria, I was reading their Japanese blog to see how they are doing at the Vancouver Fringe festival. In one of their blog posts, they wrote about traveling theatre. “That’s what performers used to do. They traveled town to town, performing their arts… ”

Following Ryuzanji’s activities, I felt a weird desire. It’s similar to what I feel when I go to local fairs and see the carnies. The urge to leave my job and family and join the circus?

Of course, I’m old enough to know travelling all the time won’t be as fun as it seems. It will drive me crazy not to have a permanent home. To live out of a suitcase. Heck, I know people who do that in my industry. And I don’t envy them.

What I’m feeling is an irresponsible wanderlust. An escape from the ordinary life. An excitement of a non-routine. To live a little on the edge.

I think it’s a sign I’ve been here a little too long. Time to plan some trips. Find a circus. Escape to the big top and have an adventure.