Review: In Bocca Al Lupo at Alexander Upstairs


“In Bocca al Lupo” is a third show by Jemma Kahn. You may know her previous work The Epicene Butcher and We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants or not (I didn’t before the show). Even more of a good reason to give her new thing at the Alexander Upstairs a go.

In “In Bocca Al Lupo” Kahn uses her own technique based on a Japanese art form kamishibai. What it means in practice, is that she tells her stories using cardboard story panels which are a crucial part of her monologue. The one woman show is very impressive: the artist talks us through her story at the same time showing us different images that go with it. Her coordination is very impressive (particularly to someone who, like yours truly, finds a Zumba class challenging).

The story Kahn shares with the audience is that of her experience  in Japan. She moved there to work as an English teacher and save some money to continue her studies. Life often doesn’t go according to plans, though. Japanese reality overwhelms Jemma and so do news from home. Last but not least, LOVE comes her way. Will the girl stick to her plan? You’ll have to see the show to find out! You can catch “In Bocca al Lupo” in Alexander Upstairs next week (24th – 29th July). The tickets are 110 rand online on Alexander’s website or 130 rand at the door.

The play is definitely worth seeing, even if it was just for the actress’s acting skills. She knows how to tell a story to captivate the audience. The show wraps up in an hour, which makes the experience adequately entertaining (there’s nothing worse than an unnecessarily extended play). Apart from the graphic side of things, the sound effects are also apt and complete the experience. It’s probably one of the best shows I’ve seen in my life from the technical point of view.

When it comes to the plot, the story was very entertaining but… I must say I was a bit disappointed. The story of a girl moving to a different country is just nothing new. Perhaps for a person who’s never lived abroad it can be interesting to learn that one experiences a culture shock. I also did laugh a lot but I did find her observations about Japan mean towards the country’s culture. “These Japanese people are so weird!”, we learn. Isn’t weird just what we don’t know, though? A bit of cultural sensitivity goes a long way. Also, is one really such a big specialist on a country and its customs after spending not even two years there? Just saying. The same goes for the stories of Jemma’s boyfriends which are slightly cruel. In order to give her audience a good LOL she forgets that they’re actual people, who won’t have any problem recognizing themselves in what is obviously a memoir. Her ex boyfriends become cartoons to serve her show and I wonder how she would feel if she became such a cartoon herself. Perhaps it’s just one of the dangers of dating an artist…

These considerations aside I did have a lot of fun and I was very impressed by Jemma Kahn’s talent. I’d definitely go to see her next show.



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