Edinburgh Fringe preview: The Death & Life of All of Us

Victor Esses brings his new show The Death and Life of All of Us to the Edinburgh Fringe following a sold-out preview at the Soho Theatre.

“Mixing documentary footage, storytelling, and live music, this is a funny and poignant exploration of family secrets, shame, and embracing your imperfections”

Victor tells us more about the show below.

Where: Summerhall Demonstration Room

When: 2-6, 8-12, 15-20,22-27 Aug, 11.30am

Ticket link: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/death-life-of-all-of-us

Promotional image for The Death & Life of Us

What are you looking forward to most at Fringe?

Seeing loads of exciting work. Performing to audiences from all corners of the world. Exchanging with exciting artists. 

Your show is about identity and experience as migrant, queer, Jew. Migrants are heavily featured in the news and the subject of violent and disruptive disagreements. What do you think about the current landscape around migration?

Through my work I hope to show unique human narratives about migrants. Different narratives from the ones you see in the media or even complimentary, humanising people with this label such has been my family’s history.

I’m devastated by the current landscape, how history repeats itself, a Europe that is hostile to migrants even though the reason many had to leave their homes in the first place has to do with the way the West had been operating in the world. 

How can you rape lands, enslave people and then claim that the migrants are taking your place? But it’s the same old guinea pig story, look at the migrants so we don’t look at the people in power.

Pure distraction tactics, but they still work, and millions are getting traumatised, killed, ostracised. 

One disturbing issue in recent years has been communities which have traditionally been supportive turning on each other. I’m think of the gay vs trans debate, or the wrong type of Jew. Has any of this informed your show?

These always inform my work. The fact that part of the lgbt community can turn against another is shocking to me and typical of divide and conquer. Who wins is the patriarchy, always.

In The Death & Life of All of Us, I show a unique story that is unapologetically a Jewish story and also a story about Sephardi/Mizrahi people, the Jews from the Middle East and North Africa.

I show a woman who converted out of the religion and carved her own journey. There are many wrongs here in certain contexts and that’s exactjy what interests me, to give a face to all these intersections and encourage us all to embrace these people and intersections, feeling love and acceptance for the complexity of human beings.

Your show uses humour and music to make its point on quite emotive topics. How did you plan and develop the show?

Yes for all the politics behind the show, I believe in warmth and creating a safe and comfortable space for an audience to see parts of themselves on stage.

To have a chance to think about subjects they may already tried to sit down and consider, but in a fun and moving way. 

The music by Eneico Aurigemma is a great addition that transports us to these complex parts where east and west meet, and to the past to watch me as a young adult coming into my queerness. It’s joyous and painful.

Originally this was going to be a gig theatre piece but it progressed into a deconstructed documentary storytelling show with fun, games, projections and archival footage of me as a 19 year old interviewing my great aunt Marcelle.

She’s a hugely camp woman full of stories and lots of secrets.

The show uses your aunt’s experience and how she changed much about herself to assimilate in her new society. Do you think it is crucial for families to pass down their stories in this way?

I think history is written by the people in power, that is certainly true politically and also within family structures.

We never heard much about this aunt as I was growing up because she had shed the Jewish part of herself, even though this was a big part of her. 

In her own life she had to keep that Jewishness hidden because of the Christian society she was a part of and the patriarchal structure where her husband made the rules and she followed.

I think as marginalised individuals or anyone who feels that the mainstream narrative doesn’t serve them, we are privileged to live at a time when we can take our power back and tell our stories from our own unique perspective.

I don’t know for how long we’ll be able to do that the way the world is going now, but as much as we can we must take the opportunity to take our power back and protect those that are most vulnerable around us from the oppressors.