Writer: Nick Cassenbaum
Director: Danny Braverman
Reviewer: Peter Jacobs
Bubbemeises is Yiddish for a tall story or an old wives’ tales. To Schmeiss is Yiddish for the cleaning ritual of the baths. Hence Bubble Schmeisis – a show full of tall(ish) tales about the last authentic bath house in East London – the Canning Town Schvitz.
Nick Cassenbaum is a storyteller, street performer and theatre maker. He is also a young Jewish Londoner (Essex) in his late-twenties and this is his story: an affectionate portrait of his culture and heritage from a young man very much rooted in the now.
Bubble Schmeisis is a metaphorical journey by white Mercedes from North to East London via the North Circular, en route to the Schvitz: stopping off along the way for visits to locations and memories from Cassenbaum’s early life – reflections on culture, identity, family, summer camps, Spurs and barber shops. The destination is his first encounter with the ritual of male bathing with his grandfather – Papa Alan – and his friends: a tradition that is in danger of dying out.
Nick Cassenbaum is a hugely-likeable performer. He greets the audience in the queue with a broad grin and a friendly greeting before the show even starts. With a few props – and two rather good musicians – Daniel Gouly and Josh Middleton – providing klezmer-flavoured musical interludes and colour – Cassenbaum paints a vivid picture of the journey from childhood to adulthood, through the Jewish communities of London and Essex, from North to East and the actual white and green-tiled steam baths themselves. This is a well-constructed narrative full of love, humour and keenly-detailed observation. Cassenbaum is in relaxed command of the stage but is fully responsive to the audience and their presence within the show. His is a very engaging and appealing style: amiable and intimate.
Cassenbaum has a keen eye and ear for what is ridiculous and what is precious; a clear hold on what endures and what is disappearing from view, blending into the wider culture. Bubble Schmeisis reminds us that multiculturalism is a centuries-old tradition within Britain, not a new and insidious thing: and that the Jewish communities of the UK are a people who never forget and are never quite allowed to forget their immigrant heritage.
And Bubble Schmeisis is a fun – and interesting – journey with a really nice young man. He’s worth meeting.
Reviewed on 20 April 2017 | Image: Contributed