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'JUMP'

Slapstick ‘n’ high-flyin’ kicks

by Stephanie Hannon

A chop suey of martial arts, acrobatics and slapstick, “Jump” is a nonverbal, comic martial-arts musical centered around a zany Korean family. It runs through May 18-June 24 (times vary) at Shinjuku Theater Apple, Tokyo. It then tours to Osaka’s Kosei Nenkin Kaikan from June 28-July 5. The company behind the production, Korean-based Yegam, has already received international recognition for the show, notably at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2005 and 2006.

The characters are a far from conventional group, made up of a grandfather — expert in the traditional Korean martial-art form of hapkido — who heads a family of six. Below him in the pecking order is the father, also a martial-arts practitioner; the clumsy, yet tae kwon do-savvy mother; a drunken, nunchukku-wielding uncle; a dainty daughter with feather-light fighting moves; and the putative son-in-law, a geek-turned-warrior lover.

The story has four parts and unfolds from the entrance of a visitor who, although a complete amateur, has no choice but to take part in the family’s daily martial-arts training regime. It becomes apparent that he may have found his forte and the family’s daughter promptly falls in love.

In the final part, two hapless burglars find themselves on the wrong side of these domestic fighting machines. Cue stunning flying leaps, flips and plentiful kicks. The characters re-create moves in “slow motion” and other “flying” special effects in hilarious fight routines reminiscent of “The Matrix” movie series.

The action is so vigorous and skilled that there are enough troupe members to make up 2 1/2 casts in case of injuries. During the 3 1/2 year training period preceding the opening of the show, performers studied various combat disciplines such as tae kwon do, taek kyun and hapkido from Korea and capoeira from Brazil.

The musical is nonverbal and suitable for all ages. Admission is 6,800 yen. For Tokyo tickets, call (03) 3234-9999. For Osaka, call Kyodo Ticket Center at (06) 6233-8888. For more information, visit www.jumpjump.jp