Adelaide Festival

Festival Review: Wot? No Fish!!

A gentle journey through the Jewish East End of London is what’s on offer in the one man show, Wot? No Fish!!

Presented by: Bread & Circuses
Reviewed 4 March 2017

A gentle journey through the Jewish East End of London is what’s on offer in the one man show, Wot? No Fish!!

Our host, Danny Braverman, sets a cheerful, relaxed atmosphere as though the audience had just dropped into his home for a chat and a cup of tea. He welcomes us into his domain, “Lovely to see you, come in, have a fishball”.

As we sample traditional Jewish gefilte with chrain, he starts his uniquely documented family narrative. You see, his Uncle Ab Solomon chose to record his love for his wife Celie and their life together in beautifully crafted images drawn onto tiny wage-packets. This extraordinary visual journey spans the 20th century from 1926 to 1982.

The question arises; can someone else’s family story hold the interest of others for over an hour? Well, the answer is, unhelpfully, yes and no. Braverman combines detailed and loving commentary in company with Ab’s delicate cartoons of their life and times, to draw us into an often intimate sympathy for their trials and tribulations. As with so much of great literature, we find that the lives of ordinary people can be compellingly interesting; but in this case, not completely so.

As the images are projected up on a screen and Danny teases out the details behind the pictures, we share moments of joy and family happiness along with personal difficulties built around poverty, illness, disability and the occasional terrible tensions that stretch and pull at all family relationships at some time or another. We are also drawn into the Jewishness of their lives: the food, the words, their rituals, the prejudice and, of course, the humour that emerges from it.

Although Ab’s art is delightful and Braverman is a gifted story-teller, there are moments when the narrative drags. Fortunately the ending is wonderful. It is a time when the narrator holds the audience in the palm of his hand as he reveals the gripping conclusion to this ordinary family’s tale.

Definitely one for the older generation, Wot? No fish!! is an unexpected and often rewarding journey into another time and another culture. It is a story of love triumphing in the face of adversity, of humour winning over despondency. If you go, please take the chance at the end of the show to see (not touch!) Ab’s incredibly delicate pictures as they lie in their piles. They are an unexpected delight!

Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Your Twitter: @Georgie_xox

Photo Credit: Tony Lewis

Venue: AC Arts Main Theatre, 39 Light Square, Adelaide
Season: 3 – 7 March
Duration: 85 mins
Tickets: $25 – $39


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