Baaba’s Footsteps | Vault Festival

A Japanese woman confronts her past to find her present. 

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Yu, 39, has just been fired from her high flying job as a TV producer in Tokyo, past over for the man she was having an affair with, who subsequently dumped her.

Finding herself at a crossroads that the world around her assumes is signposted ‘marriage’ Yu feels powerless and frustrated.

In the midst of her discouragement, her mother gives Yu her great-granddaughter Takako’s diary. The aged pages reveal a world of struggle amid love and hope.

Takako was a ‘picture bride’, one many young Japanese women who sailed to a new world to marry a man who they had only ever seen a picture. They hoped for a better life, but often found hardship, loneliness and racism.

Invigorated by her great-grandmother’s journey into the unknown, Yu packs her bags and heads to San Francisco where she hopes to find herself, if not a man.

Yu and Takako’s (who became known as Gloria during America’s darker times in an attempt to disguise her otherness) stories oscillate nicely until they work themselves into an intertwining, intense climax.

Baaba’s Footsteps is a small play with big themes. It is an understated comment on racism, identify and feminism.

Takako’s experiences in America during World War II, when Japanese people were incarcerated as the enemy, tie in neatly with the reality of Trump’s America. The script wears its themes lightly when we’re following Yu, but treats Takako’s experience with greater solemnity.

British-Japanese writer Susan is more assured with Takako’s story, perhaps the distance allowing her the objectivity we so often give history when the failings of our own time are less clear.

The production is creatively staged in Vault’s cramped studio and assuredly acted – a fact that is even more remarkable when the cast reveal they had only eight days of rehearsals.

A welcome addition to the packed Vault Festival timetable.