In Bocca Al Lupo: Crepi!

Jemma Kahn in In Bocca Al Lupo directed by Jane Taylor. Photo: CuePix/Dani O'Neill - NAF 2016

Jemma Kahn in In Bocca Al Lupo directed by Jane Taylor. Photo: CuePix/Dani O’Neill – NAF 2016

For everyone that was at the show this morning or heard about it, let’s get one thing out of the way. The microphone was problematic. Technical glitches happen. It was surely a demon in the machine and not for lack of preparation or professionalism.

Okay.

Jemma Kahn, directed by Jane Taylor, outshines herself in this triumphant last instalment of the Kamishibai trilogy – which began with The Epicene Butcher followed by We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants, and now In Bocca Al Lupo, written by Kahn and Tertius Kapp. In Bocca Al Lupo – Italian for “into the mouth of the wolf” – means taking the plunge and living fearlessly. And Kahn has done exactly this.

She tells a good story, there’s no denying. She’s funny and entertaining, and holds the audience in her soft grip for over an hour, giving us a sexy squeeze every now and then to produce a guffaw or a sinking heart.

The work seems autobiographical (mostly? how much is embellished?) and traces her life after being a drama graduate, to teaching English in Japan, and following love to Ireland, picking apart all that happens in between to expose a vulnerability that we can’t help falling for.

The illustrations are all so interesting, and part of how Kahn’s trilogy has become so successful. It’s the intrigue that Kamishibai creates – waiting to see what is revealed next and how, is what keeps us hanging on to every word. An almost childlike curiosity arises in wanting to see what style of drawing is coming next, how funnily the person will be drawn, is there abstracted cartoon finishes or a still line drawing, and how will the four story box panels work together to make or break the picture?

Within Kahn’s story, flashes of social and political commentary emerge.

Her descriptions of the ‘seasonal types’ of women had me laughing out loud as she nimbly switches between the posh author’s instructions of Colour Me Beautiful on how to be an ideal woman, her mother’s input, and her own seemingly cynical (but so true!) interpretations of women. Hilarious stuff.

We’re introduced to the clash of East vs West culture, and through her English club at the school, are introduced to the militant ways of the Japanese, in her experience… because as Kahn explains, “there is something very wrong in Japan, or it might be there was something wrong with me”. We laugh at the communication problems, the different ways of respecting someone’s intelligence, the acceptable way to decorate where one lives – all a far cry from how we operate here. But when it comes to the crunch – of how Kahn can leave – we feel that knot in the stomach when the school’s principal shows his compassion. It’s a subtle moment, easily missed, but human understanding prevails over the culture shock.

Upon arriving in Ireland we’re privy to her disillusionment… love in idea is never love in practice. The gaping rift between the reality of relationships and the romance of finding one’s soul mate – one can only learn that hard lesson oneself.

At its core, In Bocca Al Lupo is unsentimentally about the discovery of self and the discovery of what’s important – being happy and following your dreams. Sounds a bit trite, doesn’t it? Not when this idealistic message is in the capable hands of Kahn, Taylor and Kapp.

– Sarah Roberson

The next show is on tonight 08 July at 19.00 at the Hangar. Get there if it’s not already sold out. For more info & bookings click here.

– “In bocca al lupo” is an Italian idiom used in theatre to say good luck before a performance. The standard response is “crepi il lupo!” or, more commonly, simply “crepi!” – Italian for “may (the wolf) die”.

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