You may not think that sitting in a tiny black box theatre watching an Israeli solo show about the holocaust, alcoholism, domestic violence and child abuse ranks as number one in your options for a beautiful summer’s afternoon in New York City. You would be oh so wrong. I’ve just walked out into the new York sunshine and it’ll take a long, cool beer or two before I get anywhere near back to my equilibrium. What a show!
Why I Killed My Mother by Israeli Dor Zweigenbom is described as ‘physical theatre/puppetry/storytelling’. The autobiographical tale of a man being asked by his dying mother to kill her, it was awarded First Prize at the Theatronetto Solo Show Festival. Justly so. That the overwhelming tone of the piece is funny is a tremendous credit to this extraordinary storyweaver, and if you ever get a chance to see it, then beg, steal or hijack a ticket to be one of the bums on the seats.
I was asked as I left the space whether I was staying for the next show. I couldn’t. Honestly, I couldn’t. A couple of years back I had the immense privilege of seeing Mark Strong playing Eddie Carbone in the Young Vic’s quite remarkable production of Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge. He and the show were electrifying. When I left the theatre that night, stunned in that way which only live theatre can do, I sent a quick text to the friend who had insisted I absolutely must go and see Strong in that role. ‘Just left AVFTB,’ I texted. ‘Can’t speak.’
She replied almost immediately with a lengthy text delighting in the fact that I’d gone. I couldn’t read it. ‘Can’t text.’ I replied, and turned off my phone. That particular performance of this American classic left me unable to take the tube, catch a bus, hail a taxi…I couldn’t be around people. All I could do was walk. One foot in front of the other. All the way from The Cut in south London to King’s Cross heading north. I simply couldn’t have anything to do with anyone else. And this is exactly what Dor Zweigenbom’s show did to me yesterday. I found myself profoundly moved, touched at some extraordinary level by that one hour of storytelling, and able only to check in with myself and what it is to be human, what it is to survive.
So I sit here outside the Pennsy Food Hall, in what someone called yesterday ‘the armpit of New York’, noise, people, music, laughter, shouting, chaos all around – and I cannot see or hear any of it. All I see is the beautiful little dancing-shoe puppet of a baby sister, and the big brother converse, abandoned in a rat-infested motel by a drunk of a mother who’s out for yet another night with yet another man and probably earning the five bucks the kids need to eat. And all I hear is Dor’s tender voice delivering If You Go Away as the curtain falls on this desperate woman’s life and his beautiful, life-affirming show.
And I am reminded why we make theatre.