Yuriko Kotani was born and raised in Japan but has lived in Britain for over 15 years and she plays upon the significant divide between these two cultures in her set. Growing up in Japan Kotani felt constrained by societal expectation because “the nail that sticks out will get hammered back into place.” In high school, this struggle was compounded by a year studying abroad in the US where she learned how to build her confidence and explore her individuality. Her confidence and individuality weren’t embraced on Kotani’s returned to Japan, however, which is how she began her journey to Britain and to stand-up comedy.
Kotani’s set starts from a place of uncertainty in her life where she felt unable to stand up for herself and ends with her in a confident, angry, yet joyful position of strength. There is a strong sense of the autobiographical within her show, which lends itself to some of the most hilarious moments, including her trying and failing to bring some British customs to her Japanese family.
Of course, her life in Britain isn’t perfect and she still faces ignorant jibes and even hate speech on occasion. Kotani uses her show to highlight the benefits and downfalls of these two societies and cultures. An element of British culture that you can tell she really enjoys are swear words and to a lesser extent, wordplay. These are peppered throughout her show, especially when she is passionate about the subject matter, to great comic effect as well as a surprising set up for a superb pun. There are plenty of laughs throughout the show, however, there were some slightly confusing moments that once ironed out will elevate Kotani’s set even higher.
Somosomo is a superb show that leaves the audience feeling inspired and hopeful despite often touching on the negative sides of modern life. Kotani takes you along on her journey from shy teenager to confident adult with humour, insight and an infectious positivity.