Review by Max D’Ambrosio – Showbill.ca Staff Writer
Soul Samurai, penned by Qui Nguyen, is the story of a young warrior called Dewdrop (Nathania Louise Bernabe, also directing) slicing her way through a post-apocalyptic New York, destined to cross katanas with the sexy vampires who killed her girlfriend Sally (Jackie Hanlin). Created by Affair of Honour, a stage and film combat company, the production bristles with more than enough martial prowess to bring its wonderfully cheesy exploitation flick premise to life.
The cast demonstrate emotional investment, astounding athletic skill, and stamina. All of them throw real emotional weight into dramatic scenes and sell comedic moments with panache, though there was a scattering of slipped lines in the opening night performance. Most impressive, however, was the stage fighting – not a single slip-up there, that the untrained eye could detect. Though necessarily stylised, the action sequences were intense and relentlessly entertaining. The challenge and complexity of the many moves being executed with every passing moment was staggering. Julia Lank’s staging and design, animated interludes by Chad Cuthbertson, and live action film segments directed by Nach Dudsdeemaytha all complement the meat of the show with satisfyingly pulpy side-dishes.
Despite the massive amount of skill and effort represented by the fighting, humour is arguably the highlight of Soul Samurai. The show is at its strongest when it’s stirring up laughter through martial arts slapstick or intentionally cringe-worthy genre-pulp dialogue, with Dewdrop’s absurdly adorable sidekick Cert (Lou Ticzon) providing the foremost example of both. Familiar exploitation tropes are gleefully exploited for the play’s goofy, fun-loving purposes. If the story isn’t exactly tightly woven, at least it’s for a good cause: being completely off-the-rails in the very best way. Scratch the surface, and there’s even some semblance of depth hiding there – more than there would be in the average grindhouse movie, anyway.
The Bottom Line
Overall, the show is well worth a look. It’s rough around the edges, but in ways that fit with the zine-comic aesthetic as advertised. At any given moment, Soul Samurai is always either action-packed, emotionally charged, or ridiculous enough to keep audiences engaged.
Soul Samurai runs until September 17th as part of the 2017 Vancouver Fringe Festival, at the Cultch’s Vancity Culture Lab. Check your Fringe Guide for details.
An Affair of Honor