Posted on November 13, 2017
Usually I go into a show with no prior knowledge about the work. Even if I read up I’m still new to the performing arts I’m new to thinking about art, too. Any kind. Sure I have read books but I couldn’t analyse one for you. If you want skill: try a proper reviewer? The title is A yiddish play on words. Schmeised is being washed. Bubbemeisis means Grandmother’s story. A tall tale. A story told as true but with elements that make you go ‘hmm?’.
I know little about Judaism and even less about Jewish culture so this was going to be confusing and hopefully insightful.
I’m sitting in the bar with my lime cordia (the best feeling ever is having someone know your order. It happened once and I felt like I belonged) and music starts in the distance. I assume it’s rehearsals. The music gets louder. Klezmer? Two men enter the bar in bathrobes and flipflops. I watch in confused awe as the men play. After fifteen minutes they lead us to the auditorium.
They are Dan Gouly (clarinet) and Josh Middleton (accordion). Their musical accompaniment to the stories really makes the show special. Our story teller is Nick Cassenbaum. A hairy-backed balding man with a cheeky smile and a bathrobe. He’s here to tell us about his journey to the Canning Town Schvitz (bath house). Literally.
As Nick tells us of his drive round the North Circular.
Any mention of the North Circular brings me right back to high school English class reading the poem Island Man. The line “To North Circular roar” has just stuck for the last seven years.
He goes on tangents - I am cheating. I can’t keep any piece of writing coherent so I’m writing more footnote than note. Recounting formative moments in his past that are relevant to his Jewish identity. A Spurs football match, summer camp, an educational trip to Israel, and an anti-semitic barber shop. All places he doesn’t fit in. Each vignette partitioned with a guided “Breathe in, Breathe out.” We are in the schvitz, after all. A place to relax.
The stories are more funny to me than moving. They might be relateable for others in the audience (An older crowd this time. At least one vicar) but not for this middle-class culturally-christian observer.
The ramble ends when Nick arrives at the Schvitz, told that it is fine to be naked as everyone else there also has a tiny penis, and is Schmeised -Washed by the other men in the schmeising room. The youngest man there he is acutely aware of how this part of Jewish culture is fading . His ride through the East End was full of anecdotes about what used to be there. There is passion here. He rants about the forgotten pronunciation of Beigel (Bagel is for Americans)
The show ends with a return to comedy. Breath in. Breathe out.
He calls an old man from the audience to wash him. Going by a video on Nick’s blog audience participation can lead to anything. Our hero rubs the soap on Nick’s back but doesn’t scrub with the mop head. Rather, he uses it as a whip and when reminded to scrub not beat; he asks “What sort of club is this, then?”
— Bubble Schmeisis (@bubbleschmeisis) August 23, 2016
[Image from the Bubble Schmeisis twitter account is from the fringe in 2016, not Norwich]
For a show starring a man mostly just in a wrap it wasn’t very saucy. The wrap does come off for the Schmeising but he has a matching pair of boxers underneath. “What do you expect for ten pounds?” he asks.
I’ve seen two dicks for a fiver at the art center before (Peter McMasters’ 27. Intense work. Normal genitals). I know. His schmekl is his business.
Bubble Schmeisis was worth leaving the house for. Worth the price for an art-y date. Cassenbaum is a good story teller and the band smoothed out any bumps. They got their own jokes, too. From the clarinet *toots* punctuating a mothers kiss on the cheek to the shrug at “The club was playing afrobeat music,” they kept pace with Nick’s Essex cadence.
Seeing the reviews now from Jewish viewers indicates I will have missed some bits. That’s fine. I had a nice night.
Anyway, enjoy this crude joke: