Home / Drama / Lemony Snicket’s Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming – Roundhouse, London

Lemony Snicket’s Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming – Roundhouse, London

Music &lyrics: Lemez &Fridel

Co – directors: Olivia Jacobs and Tim Hibberd

Reviewer: Jonathan Baz

[rating:3.5]

Lemony Snicket sees his work brought to the British stage for the first time with this seasonal tale of cultural diversity.

Latkes are traditional potato pancakes served during the Jewish winter celebrations of Chanukah, but the one that Snicket focuses on, upon realising that his ultimate purpose in life is to be plunged into hot oil and fried, not unreasonably chooses to escape the frying pan. As he runs through his snow covered village, he encounters gentile and Christian seasonal traditions that make for some well observed contrasts.

Tall Stories who were commissioned to create the work, have succeeded in presenting a one act piece that deploys the considerable talents of their five person cast in stimulating and exercising the imaginations of their young audience. Their depiction of twinkling Christmas lights on a nearby house, using simply different coloured bobble hats and the actors’ nodding head movements is brilliant, while their portrayal of the heroic battle that underlies the story of Chanukah, using different vegetables to tell the saga, is inspired. The audience at the press performance comprised very young school children who laughed and clapped through most of the show.

The story however carries some flaws. The ultimate change of heart of the latke, to willingly accept being deep-fried (and hence die) is not explained and similarly in the battle, from among a wealth of available fruit and veg, the writers elect to portray the Jews using potatoes, vegetables that within this show’s structure at least, have a sole destiny that is to be grated, fried and ultimately consumed. While children may not make such a dark connection, this is a clumsy mechanism that inappropriately addresses a classic piece of history. The Chanukah dreydl, or spinning top, is introduced but not satisfactorily explained, nor is the closing Hebrew song of Moaz Tsur, which while being familiar to a Jewish audience, will leave other faiths bewildered. Perhaps the producers could provide a more detailed programme, rather than the current meagre sheet of A4 paper.

Among the cast, Michael Lambourne is a delightful lead, whose movement and facial expression had the kids in fits of giggles. Stuart Barter’s guitar, with other actors on clarinet provides an authentic klezmer background, while Heather Saunders as a sultry Miss Candy Cane is sweetly seductive.

The show is a fun fifty minutes that will broaden your mind and leave you craving a hot fresh fragrant latke.

Runs until 30 December

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2 comments

  1. Avatar

    I saw the first performance and I loved the show! I’m not Jewish but I thought the use of potatoes, carrots and brussels sprouts to explain the history of Chanukah was entirely appropriate in a show about a fried potato cake, I understood the dreydl game and the song at the end was beautiful and moving – as a former Church of England choir boy I had no trouble responding to the shared tradition of choral singing without knowing anything about the song. I think the producers have taken great care to celebrate a shared Jewish experience which acknowledges and embraces its non-Jewish audience in an affectionate and hilarious show which respects both the Christmas and Chanukah traditions – highly recommended for children and grown-ups of all faiths and none!

  2. Avatar

    I also saw the first performance of Latke and thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish. I also have to completely disagree with the concerns raised in the review, about depicting Jews as potatoes – I thought it was entirely appropriate considering we are already following the journey of a potato based snack! Also, yes potatoes do have the destiny of being fried, but carrots, sprouts, leeks or any other veg face the same perilous fate in one way or another and so I struggle to see which vegetable would have been more “appropriate.” And as the review said itself, it was an inspired section!

    Also, as someone from no faith at all, I certainly was not left bewildered at the end during the Hebrew song. I don’t need to understand the literal meaning of every word to feel an atmosphere, a sense of tradition and to recognise the significance of this moment. It was beautiful, and that in itself transcends literal understanding or any programme notes that could have been provided.

    An excellent show that I would encourage everyone to go and see (if it’s not already sold out)!!!