An invigorating performance from the Yamato troupe exploded onto the Marlowe Theatre stage this month in celebration of their 20th anniversary. These artists have toured the world to showcase traditional Japanese Taiko drumming, captivating audiences everywhere with boundless athleticism, dexterity and energy.

I left for the show with mixed feelings; my love of Japanese culture battling against scepticism for a 105 minute performance void of dialogue. My fears soon proved unfounded however as I was suddenly consumed in a heart-pounding, floor-shaking show of sensation, my teeth chattering in time with the relentless rhythm. I didn’t even care about the inevitable headaches.

No drum was left untouched, no body part neglected as the performers used everything at their deposal, swapping arms, exchanging drums, breaking batons, resorting to elbows and stomps. It was a flurry of activity. A cyclone of spins, squats and jumps. A dizzying display of agility and strength. I maintain that no one should be able to achieve that many sit ups, yet still play so well.

Even the lighting was dramatised to perfection, synthetic flashes of silver blending seamlessly with the golden glow of classic candles. It was tradition meets technology – the best of both worlds. Besides contributing to the suspenseful atmosphere, lights were also used to more practical and innovative purposes. After all, the performers spent a particularly amusing ten minutes chasing reflections of light on the stage wall.

It wasn’t all breathless action; there were plenty of fun and games too. My favourite skit was probably a childish competition of ‘my drum is bigger then your drum’. I couldn’t help thinking about slightly more crude size related arguments! The audience was even encouraged to clap along with more light hearted renditions, kept on their toes, at the edge of their seats, looking for cues. I never once felt like a spectator but a part of the show, of a festival, of Japan. I encourage everyone and anyone to check out the troupe; you won’t be disappointed.