nytheatre.com review by Pun Bandhu
July 18, 2006
Members of the Goth set should appreciate Tokyo Vampire, written, directed, and acted by Dwayne Lawler, a visiting artist from Australia. In a performance that lasts just a little over thirty minutes, we witness a vampire's last confession before heading "into the sun" and hear details of how he came into being, graphic descriptions of his submission to blood lust (his victims are all female), and his tragic love affair with his "dark lady." The descriptive prose is beautiful and engaging, and Lawler manages to make violent images seem almost poetic and, at times, sexually charged. Anne Rice would be proud.
Lawler trades on the battle between man's socialized self and his inner, monstrous true nature. This refrain is a familiar one in the popular literature that has heretofore explored the vampire motif. Here, the refrain is underlined by a metaphysical theme which explores the conflict between light and dark, good and evil. We see both his attraction and repulsion to the light that his dark lady provides, and how he simultaneously attempts to sustain and consume it.
Vampires, he argues, believe that "God is dead." In the world of an immortal, God's laws do not apply. Yet we know from popular lore that immortals, too, can be extinguished—by a wooden stake through the heart (or in the case of this play, a pen through the chest), and by exposure to the light. Is there an afterlife for an immortal? Lawler's vampire is obsessed with a childhood memory of sparrows gaining their freedom by flying "into the sun," and through his fascinating journey, we begin to suspect that this vampire yearns more than anything else for the hope and redemption that light can bring, even if it would mean the end of his days.
A word of warning to traditional theatregoers. The piece is very abstract. Indeed, much of the information that normally provides the context and stakes for a piece of theatre is never spelled out, and many of the clues may be much too subtle to pick up on the first go-round. Things became clearer to me only after reading the script which was provided to reviewers. Many may miss what Tokyo has to do with the show at all (as it turns out, not much, other than providing a locale for the action of the piece to take place. The vampiress who infects the main character is of a specific Japanese clan, but the significance of that is never explained).
Lawler doesn't do a very good job of delineating different shifts in the story, which makes it doubly hard to follow. Much of it is delivered in the same intonation throughout. The wadaiko drums, played by Motoichi Yuzawa, are woefully under-used and could have provided an opportunity to define different moments in the story. Lawler would be much better served if he had not directed the piece himself; it needs an objective eye. That said, there are images in Tokyo Vampire which will stay with you and Lawler leaves his audience thirsty for more.