Some one-person shows feel like full-fledged plays with various characters and moments enacted by a single actor; whereas other single-performer productions come across more like stand-up or story hour. Jemma Kahn’s We Didn’t Come to Hell For The Croissants is somewhere between the two. Using Japanese kamishibai (‘paper theatre’), Khan walks us through seven tales, each written by a different author, in which she plays distinct characters in relation to the story-board illustrations she presents through her ‘wooden television’ (a frame on a stand from which she slides one image board out after another – with the overlap creating suspense or surprise like the pages of a graphic novel). In some cases she’s a breathless narrator – with plenty of asides to the audience – in other scenes, she plays a Germanic pedant, an obsessive student, an angry debutante, a whimsical cat lady. She has a commanding presence. Each vignette is more than amusing – there’s suspense and an edge to it.
At 70-minutes long, the show moves along jauntily with a certain surreal cabaret feel. Although kamishibai has a simplicity that may remind you of touring entertainment for children, the material is plenty ribald. Sassy and erudite, Kahn tells stories that are part-conceptual art, part-Tales of the Unexpected. It’s pleasing that this show doesn’t take itself too seriously; it’s neither preachy nor self-important. But it has a few barbs for fair targets of self-importance or discrimination whilst entertaining in a mildly madcapped (but contained) way.
The new Riverside Studios’ black-box theatre works fine and Lindiwe Matshikiza’s direction makes for a tight theatrical experience, but I couldn’t help but imagine this play in a more cabaret set-up rather than auditorium style. Nonetheless, We Didn’t Come to Hell for The Croissants is fun in a smart but not taxing way – which seems just about right for this time of year.
Review by Mary Beer
The cult hit We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants has been performed hundreds of times around the world. In it seven stories by seven renowned South African writers are consummately told and illustrated, running the gamut from orgiastic sex to death to cats with trust funds and everything in between. Everyone who wrote a story for We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants has gone on to win a Pulitzer. Or gone to jail. Bring your kids! LOL! Don’t. This show is strictly for adults.
Cast and Creatives
Cast: Jemma Kahn
Director: Lindiwe Matshikiza
Written by: Nicholas Spagnoletti, Justin Oswald, Tertius Kapp, Jemma Kahn, Rosa Lyster & Lebogang Mogashoa
Artwork by: Jemma Kahn, Carlos Amato & Rebecca Haysom
SATURDAY 21 JANUARY – SATURDAY 4 FEBRUARY 2023