'Wot? No Fish!!' returns to London to the Southbank Centre in August 2015 as part of the Festival of Love.
If you’ve never tasted gefilte fish (essentially fish balls) and chrain (horseradish relish), then this beautiful true story from Bread & Circuses will be an enlightening experience. Performer and writer Danny Braverman plies the audience with these Jewish delicacies at the start of his show before settling in to his extraordinary tale.
Appealing to our stomachs is one of many levels to this almost excruciatingly touching piece, created after Braverman inherited a load of shoe boxes from his Jewish great uncle Ab. Inside were hundreds of little brown envelopes – weekly wage packets – with sketches drawn on the back. The drawings were by shoemaker Ab, one each week from 1926 until the ‘80s, for his wife Celie. They tell the story of Ab and Celie’s lives in the East End of London.
The little pictures are the most incredible family heirloom: an intricate and exceptionally personal depiction of the ups and downs of one couple’s relationship and life together. The cartoons are full of wit and occasional sauciness – he refers to their acrobatic lovemaking, her nagging and his constant scruffy appearance. The weeks their children are born, the times war looms, the moment they give their disabled son Larry up to a hospital and their move to the ‘promised land’ (aka Golders Green) are all there to witness in Ab’s little scratchings.
Braverman relates his discovery of this treasure and the couple’s story by showing us the pictures while seated behind a table. He places the packets under a camera, which we then see huge on a screen at the back of the theatre as he dissects the images and relays the narrative. It’s simple enough, but the tale is linked indelibly and incredibly with Braverman’s own life, and there are intricate, startling echoes of their journey in his own.
Enlightening stuff, then, not just for the belly, but for the mind and heart.