A warm and witty look at life and brush with death
By Myron My
Our twenties are generally spent figuring out who we are and what we want to get out of life. At 29, Daniel Tobias just wanted to live. Diagnosed with stage-four testicular cancer, with stage five being death, Tobias faced a long and scary battle, and despite the cancer having spread to his abdomen, lungs and neck at one point, it has been a battle he has been winning for the last twelve years. In The Orchid and the Crow, Tobias retells significant moments from this experience through a variety of songs, music and performance.
From the instant he appears on stage, it would be hard not to like Tobias. He is very affable and while there is a cheeky grin to him, there is also a vulnerability that he displays to the audience. Moreover, the show’s constant dynamic style and story switching – from a rock song about his parents falling in love to a retelling of how he was diagnosed to even an ode to his fallen testicle in Italian – keeps his audience engaged the whole time.
In the early part of the show, Tobias focuses on his “religious” upbringing: being an atheist Jew who ate bacon and celebrated Christmas. There are some light-hearted moments but with the well-placed hospital curtains as stage backdrop, there is a distinct sense of something looming. Given the show’s premise, it’s of course no surprise what this is. However it still feels like a bomb has been dropped when his story reaches his diagnosis, upon which the latter part of the show focuses.
Tobias raises some interesting points about life and beliefs, but after that dramatic turning point in the narrative, I felt that there needed to be a stronger link or call back with the initial religious aspects of his show. Furthermore, while the Italian song is executed brilliantly with the projected animations and surtitles, I wonder if it could have had even more impact had it been sung in Hebrew and thus tie in better with the story.
It feels wrong to say I enjoyed The Orchid and the Crow, given the nature of the show and the experience that Tobias has had, but it is enjoyable, and is a testament to his performance and writing skills that there are plenty of laughs to be had. It may even be the reminder call you need to re-evaluate what is important in your life, regardless of how old you may be.
Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda
Season: Until 15 May | Tues – Sat 8:00pm, Sun 5pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $25 Conc