It’s becoming an alarming trend that there’s one show every year that I see in the opening weekend in Assembly Roxy Downstairs that leaves a bit of an emotional mess. Last year it was Mary Lou Quinlan’s The God Box, this year it is The Orchid and the Crow.
One of the great things about my job is that sometimes you turn up at a theatre and have no idea what to expect at all. And when Daniel Tobias slightly awkwardly walked on stage delivered a few questionable funny lines, picked up a guitar and started performing a rock song (not my personal taste), I thought it was going to be a hard slog. However, after a dodgy first few minutes it turned into the sort of show where one’s cup floweth over with emotion.
To put it bluntly – this is one man’s deeply honest cancer survival story, which also explores his identity as a non-Jewish Jew and the stories we tell each other “just because”. It’s frank, it’s personal, and it’s incredibly well-delivered.
Tobias starts the show, with a discussion of his atheist Jewish (yes, you read that correctly) identity, admitting how is family were “crispy fried bacon Jews”, before giving a potted Biblical history of Abraham. He then sang the hilarious Show Me You Love Me, which was about circumcision. Yes, you read that correctly too.
There were a few songs scattered throughout the performance, and while I wasn’t particularly mad on Tobias’s singing, the recitative in Italian describing the operation he had to remove his tumour was absolutely mind-blowing. Performed while wearing nothing but a surgical gown and with the English lyrics projected on screen, it was a hard-hitting yet beautifully delivered account of his toughest moment and was the absolute highlight of the performance.
Tobias’s storytelling is utterly captivating without being overly theatrical or self-indulgent. He knows how to deliver highs and lows, pace and pause. Being a cancer survivor he can also tell the story without getting caught up in the emotion, but deliver facts and anecdotes clearly and with conviction.
The show has some gloriously comic moments and these are perfectly balanced with the hard-hitting and emotive messages. It’s not just a story, it’s a well-developed and impressive full theatrical piece, well worth a watch. Bring tissues.
Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 9 August)
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