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THEATRE: 23 MARCH 2016

By JOHN ROZENTALS

Deb Filler, I Did It My Way — in Yiddish

Ensemble Theatre (http://ensemble.com.au), Kirribilli, Sydney | Based on one-off performance on 21 March

Deb Filler is a fine storyteller. And, like the very best storytellers, she has the ability to take most members of her audience into the palm of her hand and make them feel like she is a grandparent sharing a bowl of soup in front of a fire on a cold winter’s day.

Listening to Deb Filler is like enjoying a serving of comfort food.

She is a New Zealander, born in Auckland in 1954 of Jewish parents who fled Germany in 1938 with her maternal grandmother, and presents occasional performances in Australia, including one I had the great pleasure of witnessing earlier this week in Kirribilli’s Ensemble Theatre.

It was the perfect venue for her delivery of a mix of popular songs, such as If I Had a Hammer and Puff the Magic Dragon, and homespun tales — though some quite bawdy — about her family and experiences on the road.

Filler’s family and Hebrewness figure quite centrally, but don’t worry, they’re only told in Yiddish — described quite appealingly by her as a “mix of German and phlegm” — for a few minutes. Mostly the tales are recounted in the very appealing twang of Jewish English.

But for this member of the audience, and I think also for his companion, most appealing were the stories relating to the three Lennies, or should I say Leonards — Bernstein, Cohen and Kravitz.

They are, to use the Australian vernacular, great tales. I’d love to have on my CV a call to Leonard Cohen about telling him jokes a decade ago and having him respond that he was still dining out on them.

But that’s Deb Filler. She’s a one-off well worth catching whenever she’s visiting.

Deb Filler.