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Japanese 'Locky'
Published on Thursday, 22 August 2013

4 stars

Laughing Horse @ The Counting House (venue website)
7-25 Aug, 8:45pm-9:35pm
Reviewed by Liam McKenna

 Free and unticketed. No pre-booking required.
 Recommended for age 18+ only. Venue may not permit under-18's - check with venue before booking.

Hiroshi Kunza is like a comedy rowing boat, sailing in from Japan to deliver a performance that leaves you thinking: “Well, that just happened.”

It’s hard to describe exactly what being in a room for an hour with Kunza is like – unless you were, you know, there. Appearance-wise, you can’t miss him. Middle-aged Japanese guy. Fluorescent orange tracksuit. He is the Japanese Rocky (or ‘Locky’, as his show’s title would have it). He is, essentially, a turbo-force of surreal comedy: always moving, always lively and bright, with the sort of obscure imagination you might expect from a country known for its weirder-than-weird films.  Indeed, the highlight of the show is undoubtedly the selection of movie trailers for Japanese interpretations of Hollywood films, featuring ageing action heroes and a feast of ridiculous international zombies.

Mixed in with all the chaos are stories of Kunza’s battles with Western ways and the English language, particularly the notorious problems around ‘L’ and ‘R’. It’s hard-hitting and relentless. Kunza welcomes a couple of late-comers warmly: “Come in,” he says reassuringly, “it’s unusual but not dangerous.” This tells you everything you need to know, because Kunza is a loveable man, even when he is encouraging everyone to shout “JAP! JAP! JAP!” at him before accusing us all of racism. He puts his heart into his performance, dabbing his sweaty face continuously with a towel wrapped round his neck.

Kunza gives an insight into Japanese customs, and lets us in on a big secret of Japanese horror: disappointed ghosts. Always female. He also fits in a more conventional routine about coping with middle age, which features a lot of well-observed physical comedy. It brings the ferocious set’s pace down a notch and helps everyone, including Kunza, to catch their breath.

For someone who claims to understand a minimal amount of English, Kunza displays fantastic control of a majority English-speaking audience, and has them frequently in raptures. He’s been playing this larger-than-life set in a quiet corner of the Fringe, and he’s still pulling in the crowds – so you know there’s something special about this man.

Of course, Kunza has experienced the heights of fame before. A while ago he was visited by a Times reporter who accosted him after a gig. The resulting interview, Kunza explains, involved an exhaustion-induced breakdown of communication, and gave rise to the rowing metaphor with which we began this review.

It’s absurd, mesmerising madness. Hiroshi Kunza is easy to love and impossible to ignore.

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