THE SPINNING WHEEL
collaboration between Baba Israel and Leo Kay
The Albany, Douglas Way, Deptford, London SE8 4AG on 22 September 2014 & Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham on 25 November 2014.
Runs 1 hr 35 mins No interval
TICKETS: 0121 446 3232 (Midlands Arts Centre)
Review: William Russell 22 November
A Voyage Round My Father: Beautifully performed.
Steve Ben Israel was a New York jazz musician, a stand up comic, a rebel with a cause, a pacifist and a member of an activist company called Living Theatre. This tribute by his so with music provided by Yako 440 probably makes more sense if you are a New Yorker, but it is so beautifully performed by Baba Israel that even in downtown Deptford, which is about as far from New York’s South Side as one can get, it works perfectly.
Baba, a chunky thirty something who greets the audience as if they were old friends, and offers them free vegetarian soup to drink, recounts the family life in an area which was then Italian dominated with the local Mafia running things, which has since changed as the smart set move in – he can no longer afford to live in the house he grew up in – and his father’s tempestuous marriage and lack of a secure career.
It is touching to say the least and the plight of plain folks who find their part of town going up in the world while they stay put certainly struck a chord in Deptford where right beside The Albany is a brand new development for the upwardly mobile. He also laments the passing of all those activists of the fifty years ago and questions where it was all worth it, whether they changed anything. The play, because it is not a stand up comedy performance, takes place in a set created from cardboard boxes on to which some stunning visuals, performances by Steve Ben Israel, and a repeated motif of birds are projected. On the basis of the video clips Israel senior was clearly a comedian of style and charm and the son has it in spades.
At the end he performs a brilliant rap inspired, although clearly he had heard quite a lot of the suggestions before as the show has already played Bradford and Reading, by the audience. What irked them? He got them first to recite his father’s closing catchphrase in his act – “Unfuckit”, which they did with relish. As for the irksome things – greed, bankers, privatisation of the National Health Service, Michael Gove, gentrification, stretch limos. No surprises there. But surprises in plenty on the stage.
The soup was good too.
Director: Leo Kay
Music and Sound Design: Yako 440
Video Artist: Richard Ramchurn (AlbinoMosquito)
Dramaturg: Talvin Wilks
Lighting Design: Mark Distin
Visual Artist: Eric Drooker