New Wolsey Pulse Festival Review 2 – Monday 5th

EuroHouse – Fellswoop Theatre

Premiered at the Edinburgh Festival last year – this was a strange bird of a show that felt like a work in progress by a couple of friends – one French and one Greek – who had something to say about the euro zone – but for much of the time their points seemed lost in translation!

This was a show that very much needed a few more pointers along the way. Bertrand Lesca is a personable and engaging performer, Nassi Voutsas the more awkward one of the partnership. The show is rather simple, bland, repetitive as they ‘dance’ to the same French song again and again – repeat the same dream they have had and get to know the audience a little bit.  The humour is naive – interaction with the audience banal. But all this is deliberately lulling us into a false sense of security. Very soon Bert is bullying Nassi – first playfully, then more nastily, until he has taken all his clothes away and is wearing them himself over the top of his own forcing Nassi to take refuge behind a curtain – humiliated and broken.

It was all a metaphor of the way the Greeks feel the EU has cheated them – befriending and welcoming them in only to try and take back what they gave plus interest and breaking them with punitive repayment terms.

The evening ended with a clip from the opening ceremony at the Athens Olympics – a young boy in a paper boat reflecting a country full of hope that is now bankrupt and desperate. It was only then that the performance made sense. Perhaps that was the point as well.

Bubble Schmeisis – Nick Cassenbaum

And now for something completely different! The Studio was full of Jewish music as we arrived played by talented performers Dan Gouly and Josh Middleton in just their dressing gowns, who soon led us up stairs to meet Nick Cassenbaum, similarly attired and ready to tell us the story of his life as a Jewish boy growing on the fringes of London through the medium of his first trip to one of the few remaining Jewish bath houses off the North Circular with his grandfather.

Nick is an engaging performer, and although a little rambly at the start the story soon got into its stride – and certainly as a non Jew I learnt a lot about the tradition of the bath house and a culture that is rapidly fading with the older Yiddish generation.

And fortunately Nick didn’t get completely naked – although he did get a wash down by one of the audience once he’d got down to his kegs! And his use of fruit was very inventive!

My World Has Exploded a Little Bit by Bella Heesom

This is Bella Heesom’s debut play – and like all first time writers she has made her writing cathartic – but far too personal rather than crafting a piece of organically grown theatre.

Performed by Bella and musician Eva Alexander this was a play about the loss of first Bella’s Dad to cancer and then her mother to pneumonia after a life broken by MS.

The attempt was to frame it as 17 Points on how to cope with Bereavement. Bella moved rapidly from the character of lecturer on the points to herself and her story and back to the lecture by putting on and taking off her glasses. Eva played both the piano and the humorous sidekick.

Both performers are very talented – but the performance for me just did not work. You can find humour in death – but this juxtaposition here of the serious and the painfully intimate with humour was jarring. And some of the references and points uncomfortable veering on preachilly embarrassing or deeply disrespectful.

Death and bereavement is a very personal thing. And looking at the Pulse programme it does seem to be the ‘in’ subject ( seven of the shows are about death). And of course it’s not comfortable – it’s not meant to be. But there is a fine dividing line between making a point and banging your audience over the head with it.

I think these two would make a great comic duo – I hope they pick a better subject next time – and one that is not quite so personal.

Suzanne Hawkes

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