My experience of Akio! started even before the show began. Entering the foyer I was greeted by the 8-bit chiptune music reminiscent of a Nintendo Gameboy and other early video games, displayed on the walls of the foyer was a map of August Isles, the setting of Akio!, with images and descriptions of the tools our hero would need to succeed in his quest, much like the manual you read that accompanies a game, to familiarise yourself with the mythology of the world you are about to enter; the instant nostalgia transported me back in time bringing forth the feelings of joy, excitement, and adventure I associate with the old school gaming I devoted hours to in my youth.
I was suitably primed to watch Akio!
The show itself was a sight the behold. A seamless meld of dance, acrobatics, fight choreography, a rocking 8-bit score, sound effects (all that designed by Vanessa Morrison. wow!), lighting (Jessica Lowe), and video elements (James O’Brian) all skilfully executed. The black-and-white pixel setting, pixel art props (Mariya Tkachenko & Matt De Haas), and costume design (Julia Gorman) was minimal yet captured the spirit (and simplicity due to technology restraints of the era) of early gaming; the artists made it look so easy, even though they would have devoted many painstaking hours into creating a show, which runs so fluidly and with so much energy. The director (Jade Alex) should be proud of what she has been able to accomplish, pulling all of these elements together into a cohesive whole, with her exceptional creative team.
The story itself is told with very little dialogue accompanied by speech boxes, and mainly via interpretive motion and dance, as we follow the hero Akio (Kevin Clayette) on his adventure, teleported into the gaming world and must rescue his sweetheart Harumi (Demitra Alexandria) from the cruel and manipulative Bakeneko (Aaron Sweeten) under the villainess guidance of Jorogumo (Chanelle Freeland). Akio is helped along his journey by Tanuki (Ellie May) and Okami (Clancy Carraway), guardians of the August Isles, and set challenges in preparation for his final confrontation by three animal spirits (Khanh Trieu, Ashleigh Lindsay, and Jay Johns). The amount of talent in this show is amazing, many young cast and crew members doing excellent work, I wouldn’t be surprised if I see them experience great success in the years to come.
I won’t go into anymore detail about this beautiful story (written by Matt De Haas) because I won’t be able to do it justice, there is still 8 more shows left between now and Sunday, so if you are in Sydney, stop reading this review and book your tickets now!
The true success of Akio! is it’s strong Anti-bullying theme prevalent throughout, because of that I respect the producers (Sascha Hall & Colin Oke) even more for making this possible. Not only is it a lesson aimed at the children in the audience, it’s also aimed at the parents whom are also in attendance, expressing the fact that not only do we need to prevent bullying in the classroom and playground, but preventing bullying must also start at home.
The key to this? It’s simple: love.
Presented by Blue Theatre Company in association with Hayes Theatre Co.
Saturday 4 July – Sunday 12 July 2015
School holiday family entertainment