“We all have visions and dreams, we do not live by bread
alone.” So begins the remarkable Not By Bread Alone by
deaf-blind theatre ensemble Nalaga’at.
In the time that it takes to bake a loaf
of bread (a loaf they invite you to share with them afterwards) the 11
members of this company reveal their desires and frustrations in an event that
is tenderly defiant. It's also very funny with some mischievous clowning propelling
this confidently performed and stylishly staged piece along. Because although
all these performers are deaf-blind, there is nothing to be patronised here.
Nalaga’at artistic director Adina Tal and the company have created a production
that would impress under ordinary circumstances; as it is this piece is
If theatre is about communication, here we have an ensemble
so in tune with one another and operating within a communicative system so
complex and subtle to the outside eye as to be positively virtuosic. Taking
into account each actor’s needs and abilities, the performers and their
interpreters 'speak' to each other through a sequence of drum beats, sign
language, vibrations and touch to create vibrant and visually dexterous
scenes. It's a testimony to the
human potential to work together to achieve the seemingly impossible (a word
Tal refuses to acknowledge).
At a centre in Tel Aviv, Nalaga’at houses not just the
theatre but two cafés as well: Café Kapish, where you interact with deaf waiters;
and a pitch black restaurant where you are served by blind waiters. LIFT artistic director Mark Ball has wisely chosen to transport all of the above to
the Artsdepot and it is a vital part of this experience. Having sat, 10 minutes
earlier, in the pitch black, fumbling about trying to do the simplest things
like eating and drinking, it gives you a palpable sense of the worlds our
performers inhabit, albeit in the smallest possible way. There is also
something inherently joyful in eating and drinking in these exceptional spaces, with these exceptional people and it is a joy that permeates this
inspirational and warm show.
Nalaga’at means ‘do touch’ in Hebrew and as we are invited
to go up to share the bread with the performers and translators at the end, a
true act of theatrical communion is performed as appreciation is shown not only
through clapping, but touch. We are reaching through the boundaries of darkness
and light and communicating clearly with one another.