World War II is rightly regarded as a time in history where unspeakable atrocities were committed. The entire planet was in conflict, yet it provided us with some truly inspiring, heroic stories of those who fought against great adversities to do the right thing. ‘The Warrior and the Princess’ tells the story of one such hero: Chiune Sugihara.
The play begins with the lead character, Yoshida, suffering in a cold Prisoner of War camp in 1944. He manages to capture a bird with his blanket, but then frees it, saying ‘The Boss is always right!’. This slightly vague start gives way to 1939, with Yoshida moving into his new post as the Japanese vice-consul for Lithuania. On his first day, he gets acquainted with the Dutch consul, who stops by to welcome him. As the story unfolds, we get a peek into the formative years of Yoshida, from his Samurai training to his affinity for foreign culture and languages. The Samurai code, in particular, forms a core theme of the play. Eventually, a chance encounter with a fleeing Dutch princess brings about a profound change in his life, and subsequently, the lives of thousands.
While the story is gripping and indeed inspiring, the uniqueness of this production is the seamless integration of puppetry, shadow play and live piano accompaniment with live action. Five wooden panels in the centre of the stage provide platforms for the shadow play and also serve as partitions on the stage.
Brian Liau, playing Yoshida, is brilliant in his portrayal of a deeply conflicted man who struggles with his duty and doing what is morally right. The excellent Monica Main, acting as Yoshida’s assistant, is the chief source of humour. Ian Toyne and Laura Djanegara, who both portray multiple characters and double as puppeteers, put in strong performances.
For a truly unique production and a strong, rousing performance of an engaging story, go enjoy this play. I also highly recommended reaching the venue at least half an hour before the show to take a look at all the stage props and puppets on display and ‘for adoption’ in the theatre lobby.
The Warrior and the Prince runs Wednesday – Saturday at 6:30pm; Sunday 3 November, 5:30 pm; Sunday 10 November, 1:00 pm
By Shreeja Rajan 29/10/2013