National Arts Festival 2016: In Bocca Al Lupo

Jemma Kahn in the opening scene of In Bocca Al Lupo, the final instalment in her kamishibai trilogy.
Jemma Kahn in the opening scene of In Bocca Al Lupo, the final instalment in her kamishibai trilogy.

Jemma Kahn returns to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, with the final instalment in her Japanese street theatre, Kamishibai ‘paper drama’ trilogy. The first two shows have seen Jemma travel the globe as a darling of the fringe at international arts festivals.

I had the privilege of seeing the first instalment, “The Episcene Butcher and other stories for consenting adults” at this festival a few years ago. I loved the show and raved about it, still do. The simplicity of this Japanese story telling technique, used by monks and travelling storytellers to tell morality stories, has been wholly transformed by Jemma Kahn.

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Kahn uses this technique in the 1st two instalments to tell irreverent stories of murder, stalking, sex and more. The second instalment “We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants” built on and continued the success of “The Episcene Butcher” with more short stories, again irreverent, in parts shocking and loads of fun. The addition of Roberto Pombo, adding a wicked twist the character of the “Croissants”.

I was very excited to see the third installment in the trilogy, and expected more of the same, which certainly would not have disappointed. In Bocca Al Lupo, is different in that it uses the kamishibai storytelling technique, but with four cubed kamishibai story boxes rather than one, to tell a part of the back story to the trilogy.

Rather than short stories like the first two, this final show is one story, that tells of Jemma’s introduction to Japanese culture, her time teaching English in a Japanese backwater, culture shock and following her heart to Ireland while dealing with news of her mother’s health. The story being biographical is less fantastical, a whole lot more real, and requiring a higher degree of bravery than those that came before.

This is a great story, well told. Jemma is a brilliant and confident storyteller, and with a few more tellings, this story will become as natural and fine tuned as those in parts one and two. The first show this morning had some technical glitches and at one point there appeared to be a fluffing of lines, but received a standing ovation none the less.

For fans of “The Episcene Butcher” and “We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants” this is a must see, for everyone else it would be an enjoyable show that may leave one with a hunger for getting to speed with the earlier shows in the trilogy. There are just four shows left at festival so book now if you can. In Bocca Al Lupo is produced by POPArt Productions, so be sure to look out for it at the POP Art Theatre in Maboneng soon as it is sure to have a sold out run there too.

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