Back during his days working in Israel’s mission to the UN, Jeremie Bracka sat
in on a lot of meetings between world leaders. He admits that his mind would
So much so, that during one particular meeting in
2009 he began imagining Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat in couples therapy
Two years later, Bracka’s one-man show, Peres in Therapy, was
born, presented by his company, Smoking Salmon Productions.
comedy parodies the Middle East peace process through Bracka’s own experiences
as a human rights lawyer in Israel and at the UN. He says that therapy in his
show is a metaphor for the peace process and the Oslo Accords negotiations, as
mediated by an American therapist.
“I think that the idea of therapy in
the western sense is a little bit absurd,” he says in a phone interview from New
York. “I think there’s something very comedic about [trying to mediate] through
From messages getting lost in translation to the disconnect
between politicians and what’s happening on the ground, what Bracka calls “the
absentminded way international relations are conducted,” he finds
The Melbourne native who made aliya in 2007 and lives in Tel Aviv,
plays an impressive 20 characters in the show, including his parents (his father
is Egyptian and his mother is Polish-born), Shimon Peres, Yasser Arafat, and an
“Israeli propaganda machine” he named Shuli Tabuli.
Called by one
reviewer “Melbourne’s very own Sasha Baron Cohen,” Bracka, who speaks five
languages, expertly switches among his voices and characters. He insists that
his professional background, which also includes working at the Peres Center for
Peace in 2008, as a project manager for Uri Savir, Israel’s chief negotiator at
Oslo, clerking for the vice president of Israel’s Supreme Court in 2010, and
working in the foreign ministry from 2011-2012, perfectly complements his
profession as a comedian and writer.
“They’re both very much about using
words or language as a means or vehicle for advocacy,” says Bracka, who trained
professionally at the National Theater School of Performing Arts from 2001-2002.
“I get the audience to believe I’m a credible personality.
I think both
actors and lawyers are very much advocates.”
In transitioning between his
characters Bracka says he entirely inhabits each character in his mind as he
physically becomes him or her. His Arab and Israeli characters walk and stand
differently, more upright or hunched over, but he says it’s their voices that
“The different accents drive the characters,” says
Politics of the day, sadly, have little effect on them. Not much
has changed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the two-year-old show
opened, with a cycle of failed American attempts to revive the peace talks, and
Bracka says the issues are as raw and fresh as ever.
“Whether it’s Kerry
or Clinton or Obama or George Bush, we’ve still got the conflict with America
doing its best to mediate between two ideological nationalist groups that are
unable to reach an agreement,” he says. “The specifics of this week’s events
does not in any way take away or detract from the show.”
Therapy, which debuted in February 2011 in Melbourne under the title Arafat in
Therapy, has shown around Australia and in New York. Bracka has renamed the show
for its Jerusalem performances at the Association of Americans and Canadians in
Israel which start Thursday. He says he always wanted to use Peres in the title,
but decided that Arafat’s name was more well known internationally. Israeli
audiences, he says, will of course recognize the name as well as many more jokes
in the show his non-Israeli audiences don’t pick up on.
instinctively and intuitively understand the nuances of the show and its
politics,” says Bracka. “I think they probably will have a very big appreciation
for the show that Jews from the Diaspora do not.”
Bracka is looking
forward to being more explicit in his performance – “no diluting,” he
“It’s like a coming home for the show. I’m very excited to be able
to use Hebrew words throughout the show without feeling
After his three shows in Jerusalem, Bracka is set to
perform at the prestigious United Solo Theater Festival in New York in the fall,
where 121 one-man shows from writers from around the world were
Bracka says Peres in Therapy, as well as his other original
one-man comedies, Lox, Shmocks and Two Smoking Salmons (2005- 2006) and Enough
About Me... Let’s Talk About Jew (2007-2008), are profoundly influenced by his
parents and Jewish background.
“I think that my parents have been
instrumental in pushing me through,” he says. As a sixth-generation Australian
raised with plenty of Holocaust talk, Bracka says his Jewish identity strongly
features in his shows.
While his shows have all been in English, Bracka,
who is pursuing acting and comedy writing full-time, says he’s ready for a new
challenge, now that his Hebrew is better.
“I have a dream actually,” he
says, laughing: A one-man show in Hebrew about the experience of making aliya,
from the moment an immigrant arrives, to trying to acquire a driver’s license,
going by the post office only to find that it’s closed and being overcharged by
Bracka says he believes Israelis enjoy laughing at themselves
and would enjoy the honest reflections from someone speaking their
“All that stuff that we know,” he says. “It would be amazing
for an Israeli to watch this. I’d be very keen to develop that
Peres in Therapy will be performed on July 25, 31 and August 1 at
8 p.m. at AACI, 37 Pierre Koenig Street, Jerusalem. For more info contact (02)