Hiroshi Shimizu’s Japanese Samurai Don Quixote Challenging Against English Giant Windmills!!! is an unusual show with an unusual premise: a Japanese actor decides to become a stand-up comic despite his abysmal command of the English language. Shimizu’s comedy itself may not be especially funny, but he himself is eminently watchable.
A sort of cross between storytelling and stand-up comedy (the postcard for the show describes it as a “solo documentary”), Japanese Samurai… documents its own creation from Shimizu’s childhood (featuring a darkly funny arson-related flashback) to his decision to pursue stand-up comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, an experience that leads to awkward conversations at the airport’s immigration counter, a buxom stand-up emcee, and strip club fried chicken. The story itself is somewhat rambling, but it does eventually work itself into a familiar underdog-type narrative and you’d have to have a heart of stone not to be rooting for him the whole way.
From the start of the show when Shimizu enters from the back of the audience, he carries with him a fantastic and contagious energy that he never lets go for the entire 60 minutes. In his orange jumpsuit (featuring two Japanese corporate sponsors you’ve never heard of), he takes up the very front of the stage at Arts Court Theatre demanding a connection with the audience so intense that you never even notice the completely empty stage stretching back behind him.
The intimacy of this connection has its practical purposes too: Shimizu’s thick Japanese accent might otherwise have become problematic for spectators, especially since there’s quite a bit of rapid-fire delivery. The language barrier however is not so big an issue as Shimizu’s storytelling implies – as long as you’re engaged in the action (and Shimizu is very engaging) then you won’t have any issues understanding.
“Is this comedy?” Shimizu asks at the end. “No,” he quickly answers, but it’s something that goes beyond that – as the title implies, it’s about how the impossibility of one person’s dream is the thing that makes it worth fighting for, a theme that comes up fairly often at Fringe but rarely in such an extreme and sympathetic example.
Hiroshi Shimizu’s Japanese Samurai Don Quixote Challenging Against English Giant Windmills!!!
Written and Performed by Hiroshi Shimizu
Running Time: 60 minutes
Playing at Arts Court Theatre
Saturday June 20 2:30 pm
Sunday June 21 7:00 pm
Tuesday June 23 9:00 pm
Friday June 26 10:30 pm
Saturday June 27 5:30 pm