BAC 17th March ****
Some people have opinions. You can read them here.
WARNING: Some reviews contain spoilers.
EVERY-THEATRE.CO.UK - What first appears as a blank canvas with #SHAMEjb projected on the wall, becomes a multidimensional land and soundscape, constantly surprising the audience with what it creates. It’s reminiscent of the stage production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, with its inventive use of visual effects projected on every surface of the space to give a 360-degree view of John’s world. From the torrential rain, to the height chart, to the Lego blocks to the Scalextric (complete with moving cars), everything is well crafted, seamlessly executed. The tech team never misses a beat, and ultimately, it’s just really cool.
PLATFORM-ONLINE.NET - Despite appearances, this 70 minute poetic monologue is actually very funny and touching at times, and the story is told with a frank honesty which, instead of leaving you thinking about what the show meant, left you thinking about how you would be able to reveal the things you are most ashamed of. To an extent Shame forces you into this mind set – the audience were brought right in to his monologue at the beginning as he tries to avoid telling his story, asking various people in the audience what they are most ashamed of in their lives.
Nottingham Playhouse 20th March
THESPEAKERSCORNER.CO.UK - Accompanied by a trio of break-dancers, Berkavitch’s on-stage quartet blurred the lines between dance, staging and storytelling as they interwove their bodies to creative mesmerising, organic scenery. The brilliant scope of their movement and the sheer personality it conveyed was a joy to watch, whilst Berkavitch’s seamless interaction with this shape-shifting, dynamic world only enhanced their impact further. As well as the jaw-dropping moments of physical ingenuity that punctuated the show, the B-Boys added great texture to the storytelling through their expressive physicality, amusing interactions and reactive emotional context.
BAC 19th March
POEJAZZI.COM - Possibly the most ambitious one-man show on the market right now, for the obvious reasons (non linear story telling, b-boy choreography that has three other dancers contorting their bodies into Berkavitch’s stage props) and some you wouldn’t have guessed (there isn’t a tech guy on set, so once the projections and music are started, that’s it; Berkavitch has to dance and talk in sync with the audio-visual accompaniment for 70 minutes) and the good news is it all works out beautifully.
BAC 18th March
LEFTLION.CO.UK - Combined with Berkavitch’s flawless delivery, his ‘imagination’ provided a continual sense of how slippery and tricky memory can be, and the dance moves show just how fluid and remarkable it can be as well. The beige men transform their bodies into chairs, into a coffee machine, and even into a bicycle; all elements of memory in progress. The simple set, a blank backdrop lit up with various animations to illustrate the story being told at the time, along with a few umbrellas that are cleverly used as bike tires, as the sound of a heartbeat, and as weapons, is a perfect balance to the intensity of the shared memories of Shame.
Nottingham Playhouse 21st March
GLOUCESTERCITIZEN.CO.UK - Expecting a rip-roaring breakdancing extravaganza with dancers moving to the pulsating sounds of thumping music, it was disappointing to find Shame was little more than Berkavitch chatting his way through his story with brief forays into breakdancing.
Strike A Light Festival - Gloucester 23rd March
HEADSUPHULLFESTIVAL.ORG.UK - With some spoken word shows you will get a poet, maybe with stills and/or moving images, they will take a bunch of poems explain how they connect with links and segues between them; a bit like poetry by powerpoint. There's nothing wrong with these type of shows, but if spoken word is a progressive art form it won't do to stand still, just as language is evolving all the time, so is the spoken word. With Shame the versatile, multi-talented John Berkavitch has taken the bar, lifted it, twisted it and bent it out of shape.
Heads Up Hull Festival
THESHIFTNORWICH.ORG.UK Berkavitch is a dramatic persona himself with a strong face and dark beard, shaved head and top knot, tall and with stage presence. He started by challenging the audience to think about their own shameful acts, keeping just the right side of participation - just. After a few minutes of 1:2:1 with his public, John launched into a string of tales of his childhood and family life, confessing to moments of regret and shame, things he wished he had either done or not done.
The Garage Norwich
MALCOMHEBRON.BLOGSPOT.CO.UK - After the awkward silence thus created, Berkavitch launched into his piece, a series of interlocking autobiographical episodes of cowardice, selfishness, and humiliation. Three breakdancers accompanied him in various physical theatre configurations and provided short interludes of dance moves. A backing track provided musical atmosphere without being intrusive, and there was a programme of lighting and projections provided by a simple set of projectors around the performance area. With no technician in sight, the performance must have been synchronised exactly with this scheme.
Winchester Discovery Centre 9th April
PASTICHEMAGAZINE.COM - What makes John Berkavitch’s performance so poignant is that his shame is seemingly drawn from a deep well of self-betrayal, with no exterior locus of condemnation or control. We, as audience, are not invited to judge, and if there’s a scarlet letter upon his breast it’s one of his own devising. The three dancers who enact the turmoil of Berkavitch’s subconscious bear witness to each bad choice; sometimes actively participating, sometimes watching silently from the shadows. As Berkavitch grows older it feels as though these figures lose their playfulness, becoming sinister and mocking.
Seven Arts Leeds
FUNKSTYLERS.TV - Built around a strong core Spoken Word performance, Shame – the new show from John Berkavitch, incorporates music, dancing, physical theatre, art and animation, perfectly synced together in a multimedia blend that, despite still appearing fairly minimalist, is a perfect fit for bringing his very personal stories to life.
Seven Arts Leeds
ILLUSTRATEDBRUM.CO.UK - Retelling self-confessed shameful moments from his life, it was impossible not to connect with Berkavitch’s words throughout the evening as he laid gritty memories bare onto the spellbound crowd. As with the early preview I was totally inspired by the blend of spoken word, movement and visuals to build strong narratives, with shapes and layered colours this time replacing line drawings to create a more vivid, simplified effect. To me the use of dance here was unique, creating emotive manifestations of our protagonist’s inner thoughts without becoming overly theatrical, in keeping with the urban environment and grounded discourse of each tale.
The MAC Birmingham
THEATRE FULLSTOP - Shame’s puzzle-like structure presents a maze of timelines, spanning from Berkavitch’s 6th Birthday Celebrations to the present day. Looking back at his 25 years, Berkavitch daringly meanders through a series of ever changing projections, dance sequences and visceral monologues, creating a cathartic and authentic experience. Pushing to one side the airs and graces that we as humans appear to adopt, Shame unveils the not so celebrated aspects of human behaviour.
CAMDENREVIEW.COM - After a 70-minute exhibition of his most intimate experiences, it is impossible to emotionally disrobe in public but that doesn’t stop most from gulping with memories as we exit.
Berkavitch details the married woman he couldn’t resist, the jealousy of his adopted siblings, the friend he was too scared to save from a beating and, most heartbreaking of all, the calls from his sister that he ignored before her tragic drugs overdose.
His natural delivery bridges the gap that can exist between poet and audience. While the style is more chatty than a dizzying assault of language there is still delicious imagery, his aching wisdom teeth are “unmuzzled rottweilers”, and his very physical description of pulling on a tight suit is hilarious.
IAMHIPHOP MAGAZINE - John Berkavitch’s honest autobiographical performance took audiences on an inviting journey. Combining spoken word, poetry, animation, physical theatre, break and contemporary dance Shame is a perfect example of the nations shift towards redefining hip hop into a new age culture for contemporary audiences.
The show begins with Berkavitch asking audiences to raise their hands if they had done something they were ashamed — perhaps a ploy to alleviate the guilt of his own past and recognise that we can all relate to one another before he can begin. Which is exactly what this performance art piece does, invite you into his world, where we can see the physical manifestation of his imagination disguised as effortless break dancers.