TRCH Nov 19

Shame

23 March 14 words: Victoria Oldham
“What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” - so opens Shame, the hip hop spoken-word show

John Berkavitch - Shame

“What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?”

So opens Shame, the hip hop spoken-word show at the Nottingham Playhouse. The show, held in the intimate setting of the Neville Studio, is stunningly performed by John Berkavitch. Using humour, music, poetry and animation, he draws the audience into several defining moments of shame. While the show had the potential to be terribly heavy, it was constantly lightened by the subtle jesting and the way Berkavitch switched between moments.

With original music by Jamie Woon and Royce Wood Juinor, and dancing/movement choreographed by award winning Marso Riviere, the pace and tone were set right from the beginning, when three men dressed all in beige move onto the stage, pushing and shoving, violently aggressive toward Berkavitch. But as he explains, they are just his imagination, and we shouldn’t be concerned.

Combined with Berkavitch’s flawless delivery, his ‘imagination’ provided a continual sense of how slippery and tricky memory can be, and the dance moves show just how fluid and remarkable it can be as well. The beige men transform their bodies into chairs, into a coffee machine, and even into a bicycle; all elements of memory in progress. The simple set, a blank backdrop lit up with various animations to illustrate the story being told at the time, along with a few umbrellas that are cleverly used as bike tires, as the sound of a heartbeat, and as weapons, is a perfect balance to the intensity of the shared memories of Shame.

When Berkavitch asks the audience for their most shameful memory, the tension immediately rises and you can hear the audience squirming. But he moves on, even as he’s started the audience thinking, and relates his own shameful memories in fast paced, short monologues. He pulls no punches, and every moment feels real. You can feel the shame of his six year old self just as you can feel the shame of his twenty five year old self. But, it ends on a hopeful note, with the idea that although we can do things that make us ashamed, so too can we learn from those moments to become better people.

This is one of the best shows I’ve come across in a long time, and well worth your time.

 

Shame was performed at the Nottingham Playhouse from Thursday 20 - Saturday 22 March 2014

John Berkavitch