The Great Wave

Posted by Laurence Green

Francis Turnly brings a shocking story of abduction, derived from real events, to the fore in his new play: The Great Wave, directed by Indhu Rubasingham, says Laurence Green. The play is now being shown in the National Theatre's Dorfman Auditorium.

The Great Wave

A shocking story of abduction drawn from real events is told by Francis Turnly in his riveting and timely new play, the Great Wave (National Theatre's Dorfman Auditorium), directed by Indhu Rubasingham.

The drama spans the years 1979 to 2003. Hanako is a rebellious 17 year old schoolgirl, sparring with her older sister Reiko and vying for the attention of the latter's boyfriend, Tetsuo. One stormy night after a spat with her sister and at the rash invitation of Tetsuo to go and watch the waves break on a nearby shore, Hanako rushes off to the seafront in pursuit of her schoolmate but vanishes shortly after, presumed lost at sea. Their mother Etsuko can't shake the feeling, however, that her daughter is still alive and soon family tragedy takes on a political dimension as we discover Hanako has been abducted and taken to North Korea, as part of a bizarre plan to get her (there were dozens of Japanese citizen abducted this way) to teach a young Korean woman of her own age, her language and culture in order to become a Japanese infiltrator. As the years pass, Turnly uses a neat doubling structure which cleverly suggests how the greater cost might be Reiko's, her life on hold as she tries to find out what happened to Hanako.

This is a play about the idea that one's identity can be changed by physical circumstance and encompasses family, faith and loyalty spanning over 20 years. The dialogue, though, is often thin and the characterisation is at the mercy of a fast moving plot. But there is no denying its emotional impact.

The production is much aided by Tom Piper's rotating cube design that shifts seamlessly between two settings while mirroring communist architecture with a coastal Japanese house.

Kirsty Rider gives a powerfully affecting performance as Hanako, the girl who grows to maturity in a living nightmare torn between a perverse sense of duty to her adopted homeland and a yearning to go home. She is a work of fiction based upon researched fact. There is sterling support too, from Rosalind Chao as her resolute mother Etsuko, Kae Alexander as her sister Reiko, who is determined to discover the truth about her sister's disappearance and Leo Wan as the tenacious Tetsuo.

This play provides a fascinating snapshot of what life must have been like behind Kim Jong-Il's hermit state, as well as combining the best elements of the thriller genre with a deeply felt and moving personal drama.

The Great Wave

Runs until April 14th

Box Office: 020 7452 3000


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