Saturday, March 4, 2017

WOT? NO FISH!! ADELAIDE FESTIVAL 2017




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Wot? No Fish!! 

A collaboration between Danny Braverman and Nick Phillipou. Writer/Performer Danny Braverman. Original Director. Bread and Circuses. United Kingdom. AC Arts Main Theatre. Fri. March 3 – Tues. March 7 2017.


Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Danny Braverman in Wot ? No Fish!! Photo by Malwina Comolovea


We live in an age of limitless opportunity to unearth the mysteries and surprises of our ancestry. Sites such as Ancestry.com, television investigations of celebrities’ lives such as Who Do you Think You Are or the endless supply of biographies and autobiographies that crowd bookshop shelves all reveal answers to the perennial question, “Where do we come from?”,
Photo by Dannyraverman

Wot? No fish!!”, currently being performed at this year’s Adelaide Festival by London Eastender, Danny Braverman, is much more than a mere account of his departed family’s lives. With the consummate ease, charm and dramatic flair of the master storyteller, Braverman reveals in the most fascinating and intriguing way the life and love of his great uncle, Ab Solomon and his wife Ceili. Alone on stage with a shoebox of his great uncle’s doodled wage packets, Braverman presents an exquisite, poignant, at times funny and at other times deeply moving insight into the experiences, trials and key events in Ab and Ceili’s long life together as a Jewish family living in the East End and aspiring at each Passover Feast to the Promised Land of Jerusalem, or in the case of people like Danny Braverman’s mother and father, the affluent suburb of Golders Green.

What is so extraordinary and utterly captivating about Braverman’s journey into his ancestry is that it is told in an unique and mesmerizing way through a series of Thursday wagepackets that shoemaker, Ab, would doodle on and then present to Ceili as an account of their life and times. One by one, the audience is introduced to delightful drawings and swift sketches of their courtship, their marriage, their sex life, their struggles through hard times and the war, the birth of sons, Geoffrey, the gay art dealer and Larry, the autistic and eventually institutionalized son and Danny’s arrival before the final account of Ceili’s illness and death. Each wage packet is projected by an overhead projector onto a large screen, so that the audience can be drawn into the lives of these ordinary and yet extraordinary people. At first, the drawings are simply presented, but as the drama unfolds, we are shown the dates before the wage packet is turned over to reveal the event. Some doodles are simply illustrations. Others also contain a comment by Ab in that inimitable Jewish humour of inoffensive self mockery.

Every family has a story to tell, a discovery to make, a surprise to encounter and a lesson to learn. In “Wot No Fish” Braverman reminds us that we are part of a long history, a double helix if you like, twisting in a spiral through our DNA in a constant cycle. It is the agent of coincidence that brought Danny unknowingly to the house where Ab and Ceili lived, and which is now owned by an Ugandan nurse seeking a new life in Britain, far from her land of origin. Ironies abound. “Wot? No Fish!”. a plaintive question by Larry during one of his parents’ visits harks back to the constants in our lives that reveal the truth of who we are. Braverman, enacting the tradition of his heritage offers the audience tasty morsels of the traditional Jewish food, gefuelltes fish, or fishballs with horseradish ad beetroot. The aroma wafts through the theatre enticing audiences into a world beyond their experience for many and yet so reminiscent of each life and its binding humanity.

With the deft touch of a skilled art curator, Braverman interprets each doodle, analyzing Ab’s intention, drawing conclusions, explaining significance and guiding us through the universal truths that touch all people along history’s twisting path. At its heart, Braverman has revealed a beautiful, uniquely told love story that may well bring you to tears, lure you to laughter and urge you to delve into the stories that lie hidden in your family’s past. Intimate and personal, Wot? No Fish was the perfect performance to start my Festival adventure at  Neil Armfield and Rachel Healey’s 2017 Adelaide Festival.

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