Wot? No Fish!! is a show written and performed by Danny Braverman, directed by Nick Philippou, and performed at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. It is the tale of Braverman’s great-uncle, Ab Solomons, a shoemaker who for several decades – from 1926 until the 1980s – doodled art for his wife Celie on the back of wage packets.
We are welcomed to the show by being invited to sample gefilte fish (fish balls) and chrain (horseradish relish), a Jewish delicacy I was unfamiliar with but which I found delicious. Braverman, an engaging storyteller, then proceeded to tell the tale of his family, spanning most of the twentieth century, in the form of these doodles, which he displayed on a projector.
The pictures are honest, beautiful and evocative, spanning the ups and downs of marriage and family life, not shying away from the sadnesses of life but containing great beauty and memories of happiness. From the excitement of Ab and Celie’s newlywed life, to the birth of their two children, the Second World War and the move to Golders Green, the institutionalisation of their son Larry and Celie’s eventual death, the pictures tell one family’s story in an incredibly vivid way.
The images are a snapshot of Jewish culture and twentieth-century London life, but they are also a tribute to family and community that can be universally appreciated. I was incredibly moved by this production, and I am sure it will stay in my memory for a long time.