Brighton Fringe 2016
This is the world premiere of a show by Danielle Cohen Levy & Namer Golan. An expert juggler, an acrobat and a dancer, a musican and inventor and a brave warrioress present an archive of 23 thoughts about conflict, collected over a single year. Everything you see on stage is real.
“This show is really like um…”. Well, it should not have been in the circus and cabaret section for a start because it was neither of those things and yet it had many of the necessary ingredients: poetry, dance, circus skills, live music, even water sports but it could never have been described as circus and cabaret and I was so relieved that it wasn’t. Instead it was a combination of physical interpretations of the performer’s thoughts on conflict and the only drum roll was entirely appropriate coming as it did as the axe fell on the head of…. But more of the tool balancing later..
This is the exactly the sort of show that the fringe should be about: open, engaging and thought-provoking. From the beginning we were transported effortlessly, unnoticeably and culturally to a place where we all shared the same experience, whether it was a taxi in Tel Aviv or a bus crash in Glasgow, these performers showed us that the same conflicts and reactions occur to us all no matter where we are.
We entered to performers sitting on stage in front of us, relaxed and smiling, more relaxed than us, and more relaxed than the front of house staff, the atmosphere was quiet and inviting, in the background there was distant chatter. At times it was hard to tell the difference between the intended soundtrack and the actual background noise and this is the one criticism I have of the entire experience, which is to do with the venue. The noise levels that bleed in from outside and the internal noise of the fan keeping the tent inflated are considerable and distracting. Fortunately it didn’t matter too much in this show, it actually fitted the style, although at times I found myself straining to hear the actors. Where it did matter was when it didn’t allow the silence for the beautifully crafted live soundtrack to be fully appreciated, Gil Lavis’ musical constructions were a joy and the sound, a wonderful co-mingling of disturbed urban beats and enchantingly simple notes of music dripping into the space. This, combined with the haunting accompaniment of the ukulele to the choreographed movement piece, still lingers.
The show comprises of 23 routines signified by the headings displayed on the set. The routines took different forms, switching from dance to acrobalance to poetry to stand up even, yet none of them had the feeling that they were not part of a seamless conversation between the cast and the audience, all the numbers were based on the casts’ real experience of various kinds of conflict, but the fact that they were set in, for instance Tel Aviv rather than Liverpool, did nothing to alter the universality of the experiences ranging from trivial to intense, from macho to the worries of a woman constantly calling the police because it was the right thing to do and it was their job, whether Israeli or German, they had a job to do and she was glad they did it.
Some routines stand out more than others, some statements, like the music, linger. “You look whiter, cleaner” was a particular favourite. The body percussion accompanying the poem was perfectly pitched, the blind juggling routine a display of some skill. With gentle understated choreography throughout and an unhurried pace the performers moved us seamlessly, chatting us through the routines with an efficient use of the stage and props. Despite the deliberately make shift and ramshackle look to the stage setting they achieved some poignant images, particularly during the burial scene, which I found both beautiful and suffocating and yet comic at the same time, something that would happen to Homer Simpson.
The end just flew away, just like that it was gone and we too were gone, out into the background noise, fighting for seats, eager to discuss what we had seen, yet unwilling to pay £1.80 for a small glass of coke. My companion texted me today to say she was still thinking about it and that’s the mark of an effective piece of theatre.
This is not a Friday or Saturday night good time cabaret show and it’s all the better for that. By all means go on a Friday or Saturday but expect to have some conversations afterwards, rather than just forgetting, this show will stay with you. This is international theatre at its best really, opening up common experience from very different perspectives, enabling us as an audience to share and including us in every aspect even though for the most part we were a non Hebrew speaking audience, the translation needed no translation. Great to see it in Brighton, I’m glad they made it over here.
“This show is really…..um…” highly recommended by this reviewer.