Home » London Theatre Reviews » We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants – Riverside Studios

We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants – Riverside Studios

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.

Jemma Kahn - credit Robbie Kirsner.
Jemma Kahn – credit Robbie Kirsner.

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.

4 stars

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


Related News & Reviews Past & Present


  • Mary Beer

    Mary graduated with a cum laude degree in Theatre from Columbia University’s Barnard College in New York City. In addition to directing and stage managing several productions off-Broadway, Mary was awarded the Helen Prince Memorial Prize in Dramatic Composition for her play Subway Fare whilst in New York. Relocating to London, Mary has worked in the creative sector, mostly in television broadcast and production, since 1998. Her creative and strategic abilities in TV promotion, marketing and design have been recognised with over 20 industry awards including several Global Promax Golds. She is a founder member of multiple creative industry and arts organisations and has frequently served as an advisor to the Edinburgh International TV Festival.

    View all posts
Scroll to Top