5 October, Blyth Performing Arts Centre
Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival 2017
Storyteller, rock musician, teller of Jewish parables, gospel singer and cancer survivor… Daniel Tobias brought a slick, funny, yet serious theatre show to Iona’s Blyth Centre. And received a thoroughly deserved standing ovation at its end.
The performance began informally with Tobias sauntering onto the stage to welcome the audience (this, after a fire alarm had cleared the building!) and suggesting that the show would soon begin … but of course it already had.
A story of family. Mum and Dad. Of growing up Jewish atheists with lots of serious/hilarious asides (“lapsed Catholics are not uncommon, lapsed Jews are just not possible” through to “we were bacon Jews, crispy fried bacon Jews”). Tobias told and sang his life through a series of vignettes.
And then two things entered his life. Testicular cancer, and Lance Armstrong.
The cancer was for real, and his journey through the nightmare of diagnosis and chemotherapy had most men in the house feeling decidedly green around the gills.
There were some very clever theatrical devices in this show: the obliterating static noise when the surgeon delivers his ‘you have cancer’ message … through to the performance starting with amplified voice (and electrical guitar), but when we hit the serious stuff, the microphone is ignored. The sudden drop in sound level speaks volumes.
Lance Armstrong, the acclaimed cancer survivor who went on to win many Tours de France, became his saviour (this was before he was busted for drugs cheating). His book It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life was Tobias’s ‘go to’ manual to get through the disease. All this, however, sung gospel style, with wailing backing singers.
There were beautiful changes of pace …Tobias moving from storyteller to rock god was so clever. Seamless. And the humour. Imagine circumcision as a rock song! With the punchline, “Pull, stretch, chop”. Ouch!
This was super stuff – theatre in our contemporary world, made up of story, rock music, cabaret and opera.
The one quibble was a technical one (outside the control of the performer). The vocal sound through the speakers was full of echo, which often obliterated the lyrics. Despite this, a very successful part of the festival programme. Great to see The Orchid and the Crow in the Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival.
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