The Golem: or, Next Year in Jerusalem at The Blue Room Theatre
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
Whatever your expectations for this show are prior to seeing it…banish them. There is no way to prepare yourself for what’s to come, and even afterwards you’ll find yourself scratching your head as you ponder what you’ve witnessed for days to come. After what feels like forever in this year from hell for the performing arts, The Blue Room Theatre reopened its doors for The Golem: or, Next Year in Jerusalem. Presented by the dream team behind The Apparatus, Humphrey Bower and Tim Green, who made use of the building in its entirety in this promenade style show.
Pundits queued up outside of The Blue Room’s doors and were split into two groups before being guided into the building by either Bower or Green, depending on which colour of wrist band you were handed when you signed in. From here, the two groups were led from room to room by either Bower, Green or assistant stage managers Renee Bottern or Abi Russell. The performance itself makes use of postdramatic tenets: no obvious use of script, weaving technology through the performance in the form of voiceovers and, at one point, a TV screen upon which Hazem Shammas appeared to tell his own side of this story as a Palestinian Australian actor.
While there was no live dialogue or monologues, Bower and Green made use of outstanding physical acting, aided by movement director Natalie Allen. Coupled with lighting and sound design from the absolute best in the biz, Joe Lui, the spaces themselves became a method of storytelling as Bower and Green recount in their own uniquely weird and wonderful ways their experience and relationship to their Jewish heritage in contemporary Australia through movement.
Using most of a building such as The Blue Room Theatre for your performance space is a giant task for a set designer indeed, and Rhys Morris did a fantastic job of creating a mood of all-encompassing medieval dread as the perfect accompaniment for the jarring sound design and the sometimes absurd yet constantly captivating movement by Bower and Green.
While the show itself is unique and utterly immersive through its splendid performers and exceptional lighting, sound, and set design, it was difficult to completely relax into the proceedings due to not being able to stop wondering about the performance experience the other group were having. After a chat with someone from the other group after the show, it became clear that the experience was, in fact, somewhat different between the groups. For the sake of symmetry, this might make you want to see the show twice, so be aware of that!
The Golem: or, Next Year in Jerusalem is the perfect re-entry into The Blue Room Theatre for audiences: performance art in all its glory. As a promenade style show, being led by the performers from performance space to performance space made for a very interesting addition to the meaning-making for the audience. It added to the multiplicity of things which one could ponder during occasional moments of being left alone in a room while awaiting further instruction, which, through its clever light and set design, placed one right in the dark and ominous alleyways of 16th century Prague.
If you’re one who enjoys being immersed yet slightly confused, and not being able to stop thinking about a show for days and days afterwards, this one’s for you!
Photos by Daniel Grant