John Berkavitch’s honest autobiographical performance took audiences on an inviting journey. Combining spoken word, poetry, animation, physical theatre, break and contemporary dance Shame is a perfect example of the nations shift towards redefining hip hop into a new age culture for contemporary audiences.
The show begins with Berkavitch asking audiences to raise their hands if they had done something they were ashamed — perhaps a ploy to alleviate the guilt of his own past and recognise that we can all relate to one another before he can begin. Which is exactly what this performance art piece does, invite you into his world, where we can see the physical manifestation of his imagination disguised as effortless break dancers.
Charming audiences with his awkward humour, Berkavitch cleverly interweaves his eventful timeline in a non-sequential order, playing with revelation and suspense allowing room for audience interaction, and a futuristic electric world (projected onto umbrellas). Mirroring this contemporary relevance against a backdrop of emotional turmoil, Berkavitch’s emphasis on poetic language was an immersive experience but lacked relatable connection because of the specificity of events. And the human coffee machine, no matter how magically satisfying it was to watch, unfortunately did not mask it. The untimely death of a close loved one was Berkavitch’s shameful guilt and pain that no other could feel. It may have naturally and rightly seemed self gratuitous momentarily but what it lacked in inclusivity it makes up for in effortless performance, theatricality and poetic storytelling. However, moments of universality shone through in Berkavitch’s retelling of his sexual encounter. Sat on the edge of my seat we’re left wanting to know every detail and we’re certainly not left unsatisfied!
It’s also noted that Berkavitch’s three ‘sidekicks’ draw clear inspiration from the Droogs in ‘A Clockwork Orange’. Playing various roles throughout the piece it’s obvious that the shows’ achievement of making science fiction ‘cool’ is another illustration of the new emergence of a so-called hipster culture. However it needs to be said that some would argue, the amalgamation of distinct famous imagery is necessary in magnifying historical relevance for today’s society, whereas other old school classic lovers would ask of such gems to be well and truly left alone. It momentarily reminded me of the Glynis Hendersons’ all male production at the Soho Theatre which chose to transpose ‘A Clockwork Orange’ into a physical performance. Anyway Shame does not claim to be an adaptation of the dystopian novel but merely Berkavitch’s imagination. Not bearing the puppy-dog eyed admiration nor the sociopathic tendencies of the droogs, I sit on both sides of the fence, as their presence added to the journey and opened up our understanding of who John Berkavitch is or could be.
An entirely rounded performance art piece, which aspiring artists will no doubt use for inspiration.
Watch the scratch performance here:
The Spoken Word, Theatre and Storytelling season continues at the Roundhouse, Camden. Visit http://www.roundhouse.org.uk/whats-on/spoken-word-theatre-and-storytelling/ for more details
Written by Subika Anwar
Visit her blog ‘Nothingness…everywhere’
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