Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Theatre

It’s storytelling magic

12 February 2020

David Zampatti is in awe (yet again) of Jemma Kahn’s brilliant storytelling in Adult Story Time, part 3.

Review: Fringe World, Jemma Kahn, Adult Story Time, part 3, ‘In bocca al lupo’ ·
Goodwill Club at the Rechabite, 11 February 2020 ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

In 2014, South-African performance artist Jemma Kahn brought to Fringe World her souped-up version of the ancient Japanese storytelling art of kamishibai (literally, “paper drama”) and told strange stories ancient and modern in The Epicene Butcher.

Thanks to the Rechabite’s decision to offer her what amounts to a residency in its basement Goodwill Club, she’s brought it back, along with her other previous Fringe World shows, We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants and Amateur Hour!, and a brand-new one, Adult Story Time, part 3, “In bocca al lupo” – and it’s more of the fabulous same.

Well, not exactly. This time around, Kahn uses kamishibai to tell her own story, or perhaps a slightly embellished version of it. We go with her through a two-year stint teaching English in a Japanese high school. Kahn absconds from there with Edward, an Irish punk she meets in a Beatles-themed café in Hiroshima, setting up pretty ratty house with him and his particularly scaly mates in Ireland and, finally, escaping back to Johannesburg and her parents. Along the way she deals with issues as trivial as a mischievous misdiagnosis of herpes and as serious as her mother’s colon cancer.

The stories are in turn hilarious (really hilarious), improper (really improper) and sad. They are shot through with the wisdom that comes from life’s lessons learnt, and they’re powered by Kahn’s extraordinary cultural literacy, which makes her one of the most intelligent artists I’ve had the pleasure of watching.

There’s something of Phoebe Waller-Bridge about Kahn, and quite a lot of Fleabag about “In bocca al lupo”, but don’t take that as a pigeonhole, let alone an odious comparison.

“In bocca al lupo” is an almost perfect show (and as I can’t explain why I wrote “almost”, feel free to ignore it), and completely true – even if it isn’t. I shouldn’t have to tell you not to miss it. Just don’t.

Adult Story Time, part 3, ‘In bocca al lupo’ runs until 15 February 2020. The final performance of Amateur Hour! is on 16 February 2020.

Pictured top: Jemma Kahn tells stories strange and true in ‘Adult Story Time, part 3’. Photo: Danielle O’Neill

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

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