Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Café Scheherezade by Therese Radic, March 8, 2011

Café Scheherezade by Therese Radic
Based on the novel by Arnold Zable
At  fortyfivedownstairs, March 8 to April 3, 2011
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 8, 2011

For centuries, European theatre told stories that reflected or informed the experiences of the audience. Some of our most passionate, moving, contemporary theatre is about the tragic or joyful lives of real members of our community.

In Café Scheherezade, a play based on Arnold Zable’s novel, we peer like voyeurs through the windows of the real Café Scheherezade that was established in 1958 in Acland St. St Kilda by Polish immigrants, Avram and Masha Zeleznikow. The Café thrived and was a meeting place for displaced Eastern European Jews.

The characters in the play are based on real people, many of whom sat amongst us on opening night, making the experience more compelling. Director, Bagryana Popov, incorporates evocative Klezmer music (Ernie Gruner, Justin Marshall) and simple staging that recreates something of the atmosphere of the bustling café.

The play is most successful when telling the heart-wrenching tales of escape and loss of the elderly diners and owners. Marta Kaczmarek is luminous and detailed in her portrayal of stoical, cheerful Masha. Jim Daly captures the pain and reserve of the taciturn Avram, and Richard Bligh is riveting as the obstreperous Laizar.

These people changed the face of Melbourne and their stories are now embedded in our local history.

Stars: ***

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