Tag Archives: Daniel Goldman



Arcola Theatre

WHEN YOU PASS OVER MY TOMB at the Arcola Theatre


“Challenging, stimulating, playful, thrilling, but above all, it defies categorisation.”

At curtain call, Al Nedjari, the actor playing the writer of “When You Walk Over My Tomb” announces that there is somebody in the audience ‘pretending to be me’. He invites the real-life Sergio Blanco onstage. We are almost convinced it is this way round, such is the blurring of truth and fiction. We have forgotten by now that Nedjari isn’t, in fact, Blanco, and that Charlie MacGechan and Danny Scheinmann are not their onstage characters too. The acting is so natural and quasi-improvised that we have been utterly drawn into the surreal, stark, seductive fiction.

Two hours earlier, the trio emerge from within the audience and introduce themselves as ghosts, recounting how they each died, before slipping into their characters for the main narrative. “When You Walk Over My Tomb” recounts the author’s last days having decided to arrange his own assisted suicide in a Swiss clinic run by Dr. Godwin (Scheinmann). He has resolved to donate his body to a convicted necrophiliac, Khaled (MacGechan), interned in the Bethlem psychiatric hospital in London (“what difference is there between donating my body to science and donating it to someone who might find pleasure in it when I’m dead”). The play unfolds, alternating between the playwright’s encounters with the doctor and the young man who is lustfully preparing to receive his corpse after his death. We lose count of the taboos that are broken as we try to keep up with the uncomfortable yet dizzyingly fascinating and often beautiful prose. There are several references to Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ and, indeed, this play is its own chimera – a monster compounded of incongruous parts. Simultaneously tragic and hopeful. A love letter to life but lusting for death. It even has its own epitaph rather than an epilogue.

“the acting skills of Nedjari, MacGechan and Scheinmann alchemise the complex material into gorgeous bitesize pieces of entertainment that highlight every line of the brilliant material”

“When You Walk Over My Tomb” follows the success of Blanco’s OFFIE award winning ‘Thebes Land’ and ‘The Rage of Narcissus’ at the Arcola Theatre. One of the world’s most performed living Spanish-language writers, his current work is brilliantly adapted and directed by Daniel Goldman who has teased out the themes of death, eroticism, passion, desire, mortality and the afterlife with a surgeon’s skill while still dressing the harrowing subject matter in swathes of humour. Cultural references are thrown in left right and centre from Shakespeare to the Brothers Grimm, Byron, Shelly, Flaubert, Bach, Lennon. Religious iconography becomes pornography, while a drowned child’s discarded Playmobil toy adopts the same potent symbolism of Yorick’s skull.

It is as though the concept of the play within a play is being reflected from parallel mirrors and stretched to infinity. But the acting skills of Nedjari, MacGechan and Scheinmann alchemise the complex material into gorgeous bitesize pieces of entertainment that highlight every line of the brilliant material. Blanco takes time out to explain certain matters, such as the subtle differences between euthanasia and assisted suicide. The doctor recounts some cases (real life or fictional we’re never quite sure) of necrophilia. But it is never expositional. The cast involve the audience at times, or address the tech box, giving cues to the operator – but it is never contrived. The actors blur their real selves with their on-stage personas, but we never lose sight of the distinction. It has been dubbed autofiction and, although the audience doesn’t question it, the actors often wryly step out of character, interrupting the action to ask what aspects of this show are actually real.

Challenging, stimulating, playful, thrilling, but above all, it defies categorisation. One can describe the patterns of a kaleidoscope, but it is only when you hold it up to the eye that you grasp the true beauty. “When You Walk Over My Tomb” is one of those pieces of theatre that has to be seen to be believed. Original, perverse, intoxicating. Funny and sad; it will make you look at life another way. And death. And what lies between and possibly after. A must-see triumph. I bet you’re dying to see it!


WHEN YOU PASS OVER MY TOMB at the Arcola Theatre

Reviewed on 12th February 2024

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Alex Brenner




Previously reviewed at this venue:

SPUTNIK SWEETHEART | ★★★ | October 2023
GENTLEMEN | ★★★★ | October 2023
THE WETSUITMAN | ★★★ | August 2023
UNION | ★★★ | July 2023
DUCK | ★★★★ | June 2023
POSSESSION | ★★★★★ | June 2023
UNDER THE BLACK ROCK | ★★★ | March 2023
THE MISTAKE | ★★★★ | January 2023
THE POLTERGEIST | ★★½ | October 2022
THE APOLOGY | ★★★★ | September 2022



Click here to see our Recommended Shows page


Semites – 3 Stars



The Bunker

Reviewed – 31st October 2018


“Though actors and creative team deserve credit for an interesting idea and some powerful moments, the outcome is occasionally gauche”


Before taking their seats at The Bunker, audience members are asked by the play’s co-lead, Lara Sawalha, to hand over their shoes. Surprisingly, most do. Once the audience is settled with their shoes lined up on stage, Sawalha and Ben Nathan, her co-performer and the play’s creator, begin the first interchange of verbatim testimonies taken from Israeli and Palestinian farmers, students, professionals and ex-combatants. These views reach an antagonistic climax, then the lights are back up and Nathan explains the development of Semites, a project triggered by a heated, anti-Israel audience Q&A he had experienced in 2011, which led to him questioning his natural loyalty to Israel as a British Jew and organising a tour of the territories.

The performance then resumes with a challenge to the audience; a show of hands tests our knowledge of our neighbours and how often we mingle with those of opposing views, before the lights go down and the testimonies continue with Sawalha presenting the words of Palestinians, Nathan, those of Jewish respondents.

These three strands, verbatim theatre, audience participation and the actors’ personal accounts, interweave across the hour. Lighting demarcates the changes and our shoes are brought into play in pools of light to create immediacy and empathy with those whose stories are told. Sawalha’s characterisations are particularly good, while Nathan’s candid telling of his personal journey drives the narrative. The sound department backs them both with ambient sounds of cafes and roads to great effect.

The stories are occasionally searing. An Israeli soldier describes with chilling detachment how he watched a Palestinian father beat up his son to protect him from a worse fate at the soldier’s hands. But some methodologies are not so illuminating. Being asked to shut your eyes during a show of hands is a pretty empty experience. A sketch in which the actors imagine a dividing wall in Yorkshire is borderline patronising. Preceding this with a running joke apologising in advance for the Northern accents is cute but punctures the mood so close to genuine testimony of horrific experiences.

So, by the far the most successful part of the show is the oral history – informative, engaging and we could have done with more. Nathan spoke with only 45 people around Hebron and Biet Jala, suggesting a lack of reach and resources may have played a part in the evening’s reliance on theatrics, and this dilution undermines his good intentions. Though actors and creative team deserve credit for an interesting idea and some powerful moments, the outcome is occasionally gauche. In one of the last audience participations, we’re asked to display support for lines of testimony by holding up cards, a notion out of keeping with the non-judgemental concept. Thankfully, most don’t.


Reviewed by Dominic Gettins

Photography by Mark Senior



The Bunker until 3rd November


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Ken | ★★★ | January 2018
Electra | ★★★★ | March 2018
Devil With the Blue Dress | ★★ | April 2018
Reboot:Shorts | ★★★ | April 2018
Conquest | ★★★★ | May 2018
Grotty | ★★★★ | May 2018
Guy | ★★★½ | June 2018
Kiss Chase | ★★★ | June 2018
Libby’s Eyes | ★★★★ | June 2018
Nine Foot Nine | ★★★★ | June 2018
No One is Coming to Save You | ★★★★ | June 2018
Section 2 | ★★★★ | June 2018
Breathe | ★★★★ | August 2018
Eris | ★★★★ | September 2018
Reboot: Shorts 2 | ★★★★ | October 2018


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