Opening Night of Hachiko
Cardboard puppets tell the story of Hachiko, Japan’s most loyal dog.
Hachiko tells the story of a dog in Japan who waited at a Tokyo train station every day for ten years for his owner to return. Eccentric characters such as the professor (who was Hachiko’s owner), the nosy neighbour, the housekeeper, and the train station guard provide monologues narrating the story of Hachiko’s loyalty and how he was loved by the public (with the exception of the dog catcher).
This cardboard created puppet show was presented by two performers, Sean Guastavino and Jessica Harlond-Kenny. Along with adjusting the cardboard props in the backdrop according to the relevant scenes, Guastavino and Harlond-Kenny took turns playing their convincing characters using minimal but colourful cardboard accessories, physical attributes, and distinctive accents for their portrayals. Guastavino and Harlond-Kenny made their transitions from characters and scenic backgrounds look effortless; particularly the choreography of their movements in timing with the outdoor sound effects on playback.
Of course the star of the puppet show was Hachiko, a three-dimensional cardboard puppet who was mostly in Harlond-Kenny’s choreographed hands. Not only did she manoeuvre Hachiko’s body movements with precision; she also provided the barking sound effects.
The live performance of Hachiko was quite poignant with several moments that make you empathise with the characters. One scene in particular is when the dog catcher traps Hachiko in a cardboard box. Listening to the dog yelping from inside the box whilst scratching against the surface trying to escape was barely tolerable. What was also just as moving was the presentation of Hachiko’s longing for his master during his days at the train station. You can’t help laying a hand on your heart when Hachiko sits on his hind legs, with his head lowered, as another day went by with no sight of his master.
Parents and children in the audience enjoyed the good natured humour displayed by Guastavino’s and Harlond-Kenny’s human characters. Their physical antics such as comically sauntering their way across the stage, ducking for cover behind the cylindrical turnstyle, and popping up from the centre of the turnstyle (how did they do that?); were all good measures to lighten the mood.
Hachiko may be suitable for all ages; however it is clear that dog lovers (or pet owners in general) and children will find this story more relatable.
Reviewed by Juanita Piozzi, Flourish Magazine, April 7, 2017