Tokaido Road four-star review in The Times

The Times, July 8th 2014


The real hotspot of the Cheltenham Festival has become the intimate space of the Parabola Arts Centre: this year so far it has attracted..
and, best of all, Nicola LeFanu’s new music-theatre piece Tokaido Road.

Inspired by the Japanese artist Hiroshige’s woodblock print series 53 Stations of the Tokaido, LeFanu and her librettist Nancy Gaffield have created an existential journey in speech, song, mime and dance with Hiroshige’s pictures projected. What with unhappy love, treacherous rivers and wintry scenes, it’s rather like an oriental Winterreise. We’re left with Hiroshige in old age, singing his own epitaph, and the dying murmurs of the sho (Japanese mouth organ) and flickerings of the plucked koto.

The strongest element in Tokaido Road is LeFanu’s sensitive use of the combined western and Japanese sound palette of the Okeanos ensemble, which combines the likes of sho and koto with oboe, clarinet, viola and cello.

The piece is well paced and meticulously thought through, with spare instrumental lines exquisitely woven with the voices and deftly conducted by Dominic Wheeler. The director Caroline Clegg and choreographer Nando Messias guide the body language of the old Hiroshige (baritone Jeremy Huw Williams, speaking) and the young, travelling Hiroshige (Williams, singing), the two lovers Kikuyo (Raphaela Papadakis) and Mariko (Caryl Hughes), and Tomoko Komura’s superb mime artistry. Every word is audible, every movement is eloquent and Kimie Nakano’s design remains long in the mind’s eye.

Hilary Finch

LeFanu awarded Elgar Bursary

LeFanu has been awarded the Elgar Bursary, which supports a major commission for the BBCSO. Read more on this link:
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