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Tokyo Rose Q&A with Tanya Agarwal

A lady stands in front of a red background. You can partially see a sign behind her which says on air.

Tokyo Rose tells the true story of how one strong, American-born woman battled through a journey of self-acceptance, only to return home to a dangerously divided nation. We spoke to the producer of the show, Tanya Agarwal to find out more.

1. Hello Tanya, thank you for your time today. What was the starting point for the show and what was the inspiration?
Burnt Lemon Theatre is all about amplifying women's voices and platforming marginalised stories, and so looking at the stories of female radio hosts felt like the next logical step. Cara Baldwin, co-artistic director of Burnt Lemon Theatre and co-writer, discovered Iva's story on the train back from the Edinburgh Fringe 2018, and then we went from there. We were particularly inspired by her resilience, steadfastness, and poise in everything that she went through, and we wanted to make sure that we did her story justice in our musical.

2. How do you approach putting the show together? What has been the rehearsal process within the confines of lockdown?
We’ve been developing the production since 2019. Tokyo Rose began its life as a one hour fringe musical, and has now developed into an epic two act musical. Between the first iteration and the show as it stands today, we’ve been through multiple workshops, each focused on different elements of the show (music, story, movement). Over lockdown we would meet once a week for a couple of hours to share music, discuss scenes and figure out what we need next. The writing team operated in a relay between script, dramaturg, composer, and vocal arranger, so we have to stay organised to ensure the relay runs smoothly! We even did a one week intensive writing workshop over Zoom where we mapped out the entire show via screen sharing. It’s been the greatest joy to be back in the room this week, working on our feet, with incredible actors bringing to life the lines and movements we’ve only seen on a screen or imagined in our heads.

3. What can audiences expect to see from the show?
Tokyo Rose
shines a light on Iva Toguri, an American-Japanese woman who was torn between the two nations she should have been able to call home. We are particularly keen to dispel this myth of the villainous Tokyo Rose, and instead, focus on and pay tribute to the person underneath the myth. Expect an electric, dynamic, epic musical with a lot of heart that’ll get you humming the tunes and tapping your feet all the way home.

4. What are the origins of Burnt Lemon Theatre? How did the name originate?
Burnt Lemon Theatre was founded by Hannah Benson and Cara Baldwin while they were training on the prestigious Contemporary Theatre Course at East 15 Drama School. l joined as their Producer a year later, and the rest is history! The name comes from our attitude - when life gives you lemons, set them on fire!

5. Finally if you could describe the show in three words what would they be?
Empowering. Electrifying. Epic.

Tokyo Rose comes tothe Corn Exchange from Tuesday 26 - Wednesday 27 October. Find out more