Browse reviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

Bottle Mail from Okinawa

Ship of the Ryuku

Genre: Dance and Movement Theatre

Venue: Spotlites @ The Merchants’ Hall


Low Down

This is a traditional style tale told with dance and movement that captures the tradition of Asian storytelling. With the joy of the narrative these performers tell us of an island that may be lost which is like a metaphor for the style of performance they have brought to the Fringe.


There is an island in Asia from which a bottle has been thrown into the sea. This bottle contains a letter from a 10 year old who informs us of what happens on his island. We are taken on a journey through the sailors, sellers, farmers and ancestors that is a dance delight. The performers are equally delighted and end with a wonderful cheerio song that ends their traditional tale.

If you are looking for a radical retelling of some Asian folklore this is simply not it. This is a performance piece that is steeped in thousands of years of traditional storytelling. It is delightful to watch and the central idea of a message in a bottle a good one.

I am no expert in traditional dance but the performers give it their all. If there was a prize for the happiest show on the Fringe this would win hands down. I do enjoy this form of dance and so was very happy but each time I see something of this nature I do wonder if there is a 21st Century version of it. I am constantly looking for something more contemporary.

The set was simple and was delighted to see some shadow puppetry. Puppetry has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance recently and shadow puppetry can be a highly effective form. Here it was well done. The costumes are superb. There seemed to be a new one for every dance and they shone throughout. The music was as you would expect and the songs whilst repetitive at times were sold with such passion it was hard not to smile back.

This was an excellent piece of traditional work which leaves me wondering where it could go next. There are probably many ideas within the company but the traditions of the piece are wrapped up in the telling of this tale. An existence threatened by the modern world or by something we laughingly call progress. If the island described was to be lost it would be as heartfelt as losing the very traditional dance and performance that I saw here. That is a metaphor and a performance piece that I would prefer to see. Having said that this was as good a piece of Asian dance as I have seen for some time, though in the largest arts festival in the world, I might hope to see it fitting within a more contemporary structure.