2014 Melbourne Comedy Festival:
• Showko—Sushi Dictator
Posted on 31 March 2014
One of the joys of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is that it is in fact international. We get acts from many countries and many cultures. I am fond of dipping my toe into completely new worlds of comedy. This is a great way to be inspired in a manner that creates fresh original material.
Showko’s Sushi Dictator is a Japanese confection sure to delight a broad audience. Showko performs a traditional style of “sit-down” comedy called rakugo that has been around since the 17th century. Rakugo usually focuses on storytelling alone, but Showko presents a livelier version which includes ventriloquism and puppetry.
The story Showko tells in Sushi Dictator has to do with a bossy wife who takes over her husband’s sushi restaurant. Her energy is superb, the jokes clever, and the ventriloquism entertaining. Her little sushi song has a catchy tune that you will have rolling around in your head long after the show is over. People were delighted with her bamboo magic, where she created animated shapes out of a sushi mat.
One of the problems international performers face is not knowing how cultural they can get. I was part of the early anime movement in the 1980s when Japanese animation companies couldn’t imagine that Western audiences would enjoy their stories. We had to find people willing to send us tapes of shows such as Urusei Yatsura (Those Annoying Aliens), then track down someone to translate the dialogue. We would then pass around tapes and read out photocopies of the translations at viewings. None of this reduced its young audience’s insatiable desire for more.
Showko does an admirable job of trusting her audience. As such we are treated to a unique artistic experience. I would suggest that Showko’s show would be even better served if she removed the gimmicky mouth puppet, and replaced it with another of her own handmade puppets. It does provide audience interaction, but it is also out of character with the rest of the show.
Sushi Dictator is a real pleasure. It’s solid family fare where adults and children alike have fun. Go explore a new world of humour, you won’t regret it.
Peace and kindness,