Working in hospitality can be hell. And in playwright/director Kuro Tanino’s show The Dark Master, this is all too relevant.
When a happy go lucky backpacker, Koichiro F.O. Pereira, wanders into a traditional Japanese bistro, he encounters the drunk, smoking, jaded owner and chef of the restaurant. After ordering and wolfing down a deliciously creamy omurice (omelette and rice dish), the owner offers the traveller the opportunity to run the place. In an impressive performance as the restaurant owner, Susumu Ogata embodies the world-weary chef despite only being on stage for a fraction of the show.
Guided through a microscopic earpiece and communicating through hidden microphones, the young man’s skills develop over time and with the success of the restaurant come added pressures that sink him deeper and deeper into a nightmarish world that he hadn’t signed up for.
The Dark Master had a good mix of comedy, drama and suspense but quite a slow pace. It showcases well how people react as their pushed to their emotional and physical limits in the pressure-cooking environment of a busy one-man kitchen.
All audience members were given their own earpiece to listen in to the commands that the master gave the new apprentice. It was unsettling at times, particularly when the master made moaning noises and when the commands started to make a turn for the worse.
The food consumed by the patrons of the bistro is all prepared live and camera footage from above were displayed on a screen. The smells and sounds of the frying pan cooking up delicious food was enticing and made the experience of being in a restaurant more immersive.
The set was detailed and authentic, with pots and pans, bar stools and brick walls which all added to the layers of this multi-faceted performance.
One let down were the sight issues with the stage. Parts of the set, including the entrance, could not be seen from certain angles which was frustrating.
Overall, it was a well-constructed piece of theatre that shows the importance of having a work-life balance and leaves you with a hankering for Japanese food.