Braverman slipped onto the stage bearing Tupperware containers and a large shoebox. The former containing gfilte (Yiddish for fish balls) and the latter a collection of weekly illustrations on small beige wage packets gifted to his wife Celie. While the containers were passed around the audience there was a discussion as to whether the fish balls were better fried or boiled. One aspect on which there could be no discussion was the accompaniment “chrain”, a vividly coloured relish with horseradish and beetroot. So, similar to marriage, there is a combination of sweet and sour, sharp and tangy. It was a clever device which warmed the audience immediately.
This is a lovingly told story of family life in the East end of London, a lower income suburb, traditionally home to a large population of Jewish refugees, many from Eastern Europe.
Braverman extensively used Yiddish words and turns of phrase, but in order to remain accessible to a wider audience he “translated” them into English.
He is a master storyteller and fluidly draws us into the narrative. There we meet his mother’s cousin, a gay upmarket Art dealer (Fischer Fine Art), the collector of the weekly wage packets and his brother a sufferer of autism, (undiagnosed at the time) and epilepsy. Centre stage are their parents Ab and Celie, the author and recipient of the little illustrated wage packets.
Abraham was a cobbler by trade and comfortable in the area but Celie had higher ambitions. Like many of their former neighbours she wanted to move west and “up in life”. The move to Golder’s Green became a reality after they had placed their now fully grown second son in a psychiatric asylum. The title of the play is a reference to his outcry during one of their regular Sunday visits. “Wot no fish?” Where is the gfilte?
This is a cleverly written work and marvellously performed. There is humour and poignancy covering hard times and better ones. The pesah (passover) toast “Next year in Jerusalem” encapsulates that optimistic, forward-thinking survival gene. Love and family can conquer all adversity. A heart-warming opening to the Festival of Perth.
2019 Perth Festival
Wot? No Fish!!
Venue: State Theatre Centre Studio Underground | Corner Roe and William Street Northbridge WA
Dates: 19 – 24 February 2019