Review: John Berkavitch’s (@berkavitch) ‘Shame’

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 for more details



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Writ­ten by Subika Anwar

Vis­it her blog ‘Nothingness…everywhere’

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About Subika Anwar

Playwright & Actor. Brand new website. Take a look to find out more about me

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