JEW(ish) – Eye Spy Arts
Eye Spy Arts' production ‘JEW(ish)’ was presented here as part of a Jewish East End Extravaganza at Rich Mix in London, timed to coincide with International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a one-man show, brightly performed by Oliver Hymans, that explores the cultural heritage of the Jewish community in search of personal identity. The storyteller takes the audience on a poetical journey to encounter the hardships and the cultural conflicts that his female ancestors have been subjected to throughout different generations.
The story is presented through inventive, varied and simple dramaturgy in which actions do not always follow each other coherently, creating a sort of puzzle that is resolved at the end. The scenery consists of cardboard boxes that are moved around and shaped in order to adapt to the narrative. Old film projection and sound recording give the production a nostalgic atmosphere. Hats and long coats, bottles, shoes and books are manipulated and transformed to become puppets in the hands of the storyteller, breaking the pace of the story constantly and adding intrigue.
The use of a toy theatre and object manipulation helps to create images that yield a metaphysical dimension to the story. The mythical figure of the Golem is central and recurrent in different instances throughout the show: as a marionette inside a toy theatre, telling the story of the Golem of Prague; in a powerful appearance of a Golem-like character imagined as a hand held mask and glove puppet pulled out of a suitcase; and as a Golem baby that is discovered inside of a rucksack.
Oliver Hymans is an engaging storyteller and a technically gifted puppeteer, able to captivate the audience when he manipulates the objects. The only shame is that the puppets, though well brought to life, do not succeed completely in telling their own stories, which are sometimes merely brushed over and not developed enough. The puppetry is only used as a tool to illustrate the storytelling rather than as a storytelling device itself. This results in a lack of clarity, especially for members of the audience who do not belong to the Jewish community and are not familiar with the cultural implications of the images. However, all-in-all, this is an entertaining, intimate and original show.
Eye Spy Arts
Rich Mix Theatre