(reviewed at the New Wolsey Studio on 6 June)
Pulse 2015 ended with an exceptionally moving family story, a true one. Bread & Circuses’s Nick Philippou directs Danny Braverman’s Wot? No Fish!! with the subtlety the story demands. Braverman has the audience eating out of his hand from the very beginning as we are offered that traditional (and delicious) Jewish delicacy, fish balls. Their significance becomes apparent later.
Braverman’s great-uncle Ab Solomons drew sketches each week on the pay packet he handed to his wife Celie. They were themselves of refugee families, escaping from the late 19th century lash of pogroms which disfigured Tsarist Russia and the new German empire alike. The marriage produced two children, both boys, and both children refused to conform to the norm.
One worked in an art gallery in the West End, far from Whitechapel, Dalston or Golders Green, let alone Hampstead Garden Suburb.The other was what we would nowadays classify as autistic. In the 1920s and ’30s, such a difficult youth as Larry approaching full manhood would be sent to a lunatic asylum, which is what happened. His parents made an awkward visit each week, usually bringing food (hence the title when, on one occasion, the goodie-basket failed to reveal any fish balls and their accompanying sauce).
We see these remarkable sketches and caricatures on a screen, as Braverman recounts the family history and humanises the people they represent with selected photographs. There is a special poignancy about the later sketches showing the ageing couple performing the Friday night rituals alone, without either of their sons or even a neighbour to join them. As painless history lessons go, this is at the top of my list.
Pulse 2015 ended on 6 June.