Writer: Danny Braverman
Director: Nick Philippou
Reviewer: Barbara Michaels
Danny Braverman wanders onstage clutching a cardboard shoebox. After some pre-amble (perhaps spiel would be a more appropriate word, due to the Jewish background which forms the basis of this unique performance) he opens it. Inside are a number of brown envelopes, the wage packets of Danny’s Great- Uncle Ab Solomons, a shoemaker in the East End of London in 1926.
It is the wonderfully evocative drawings which decorate these envelopes which caused Danny to research his Great-uncle’s story and craft it into his one man show. It transpired that unknowingly Ab was a talented cartoonist. Every week, when he handed his wife Celie his wage packet, he draw a cartoon on it. The cartoons, which are projected onto a screen throughout, chronicle their lives, together, giving a humorous and empathetic picture of life in the East End of London in the early 1920s.
Braverman, who has thirty years experience in the theatre under his belt, tackles this moving story. At times funny, at other times bringing one close to tears, with humour and a warmth born of insight into his subject. Braverman’s skill as a raconteur is in being deceptively casual in his delivery, but make no mistake this man is a master in his craft. While giving a warm portrayal peppered with Yiddish expressions and references, he dexterously avoids a stereotypical approach. Aided and abetted by visual expert Wallace MacDougall, who worked on the on-screen images, Braverman interposes chuckles and sadness, drawing the audience in with laughter and tears.
Being on stage for an hour and three-quarters non-stop is no mean feat and under the directorship of Nick Philippou, Braverman rises nobly to the challenge. This is a show that doesn’t stand still, in the sense that it various from venue to venue, including a tabletop performance as part of a walking tour of the East End of London.
The performance reviewed here was staged as part of the Cardiff Unity Festival. In August Braverman will take it up to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, by which time it may well alter shape yet again.
Reviewed on 13th July