Not by Bread Alone | Perth Festival 2014Not by Bread Alone is a profound theatre experience. An Australian exclusive from the Israeli Nalaga’at Deaf-Blind Theatre here as part of PIAF 2014, the show is at once poignant, funny, sad, harsh and beautiful.

Conceived and directed by Adina Ta, Not by Bread Alone was created by Ta and the deaf-blind ensemble over a two year timeframe. In 90 minutes the audience are treated to the performers kneading, preparing and baking bread. But, as one of the performers Itshak Hagay Hanina states, “We are not by bread alone.” They have stories and dreams, and a series of vignettes in between the bread making shows the audience what the performers’ dream of.

Of the 11 performers, some have “traces” of sight, some of hearing, some are totally blind, some are totally deaf; but the majority are both deaf and blind to a degree. Each communicates in a different way, which was shown particularly well in the opening scene as they sat at a table facing the audience. Some spoke to us (in a variety of languages), some signed, some used the glove language (each joint on the hand symbolises a letter). It was as heartbreaking as it was moving, to see this group communicate, and to read later in the program of the difficulties they had to overcome just to be able to do so.

Ten translators assisted with sign language, movement and scene changes. My hat goes off to these 10 young people, as they all seemed to be able to speak Hebrew, English or Russian, (many of the performers were from the former Soviet Union), and sign in a variety of ways.

“If you were to tell me that there was a blonde bombshell standing next to me, I wouldn’t know what you meant,” says Itshak in one of the lighter moments. And there are many lighter moments in Not by Bread Alone, from a camp scene in a hairdresser to the wedding finale. Igor Osherov and Mark Yaroski in particular are natural comedians, with their slapstick routines and over the top facial expressions reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin.

There are moments of heartbreak as well, such as where Evgenia Shtesky (Genia) recalls the moment she held her nephew and realised she would never see his face. Or how Bat Sheva Rabansari doesn’t enjoy taking breaks anymore as it’s when the isolation and darkness sets in. One performer says at the beginning, “if people don’t shake my hand, how do I know they exist?”

As the performance draws to a close, the aroma of freshly baked bread fills the first few rows of the theatre, and the audience is invited up on stage at the end to meet the actors and share their bread.

Isolation and communication are the underlying themes throughout Not by Bread Alone; individually, these performers live in silence and in darkness. As a group they have come together and created a communicable, moving, profound piece of theatre. Highly recommended.

Nalaga'at Deaf-Blind Theatre
Not By Bread Alone

Conceived and Directed by Adina Tal

Venue: Regal Theatre Perth
Dates: 8 – 12 February 2014
Tickets: $25 – $120

Part of Perth Festival 2014

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