Tokyo Rose review – fiery musical revolves around radio DJ’s fight for justice

Southwark Playhouse, London
Iva Toguri’s trial for treason, accused of broadcasting Japanese propaganda to American troops, forms the backbone of this production

This real-life story of Iva Toguri tells of an innocent young woman caught in the tangle of historical and wartime bigotries. Toguri, who came to be known as “Tokyo Rose”, was an American citizen who visited Japan in the 1940s and became a radio DJ. Her return to the US sparked public uproar among those who – wrongly – accused her of broadcasting Japanese propaganda to American troops. Charged with treason, she was imprisoned for more than six years with a presidential pardon only coming decades later in 1977.

This musical brings her appalling story of injustice to the stage. Directed by Hannah Benson, it has a book and lyrics by Mayhee Yoon and Cara Baldwin (with additional book by Benson, Jonathan Mann and William Patrick Harrison, who is also its composer). Delivered as a courtroom trial in San Francisco with flashbacks to wartime Japan, it is a bumpy performance that eventually pays off in its power.

At Southwark Playhouse, London, until 16 October.

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