The year is 1919. The Great War is finally over and Poppy Wright, inspired by her suffragette teacher, arrives in London from the north of England to make her mark, rather than stay in service as a nanny. In the heart of the East End, in a back alleyway, she finds work in Smith’s tailoring and costumiers’ workshop. There she meets not only Smith, the Russian Jewish tailor with a Chinese past, but also George the chauffeur and war hero and Tommy Johns, the music hall female impersonator, also back from the trenches.
Liverpudlian playwright Diane Samuels talks to Judi Herman about identity and change from London’s East End 1919 to now. These themes feature in her play Poppy + George, about Northerner Poppy Wright, who is taken on at a tailoring workshop by the proprietor Smith, a Russian Jew with a Chinese past. It’s here that Poppy also meets Tommy the music hall artist and George the chauffeur, both changed by serving in the trenches.
Diane also discusses her new project (at 21:49), Song of Dina, a multimedia oratorio with music by composer Maurice Chernick, based on the story of the Patriarch Jacob’s only daughter.
Poppy + George runs to Saturday 27 February, 7.30pm & 2.30pm, £12-£22.50, at Watford Palace Theatre, 20 Clarendon Rd, WD17 1JZ; 01923 225671. http://watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk
Song of Dina launch event on Wednesday 6 April, 7.45pm, FREE, at JW3, 341-351 Finchley Rd, NW3 6ET; 020 7433 8989. www.jw3.org.uk
Whilst we’re in the midst of LGBT History Month, Josh Bradlow shares his experiences of coming of age as a gay Jewish man, from his ‘mortifying’ Bar Mitzvah, to his current work as a policy intern at LGBT equality charity Stonewall.
“Of the many embarrassing moments I had throughout my teenage years, one in particular stands out for me. On a sweltering June afternoon in a crowded Lebanese restaurant, a relative addressed my Bar Mitzvah party. ‘Josh probably wouldn’t want you to know this’, he said, ‘but his favourite film is Miss Congeniality’. The audience erupted in gales of laughter, and I was mortified.
Thirty years ago, the great and influential Jewish theatre practitioner Peter Brook worked with writer Jean-Claude Carriere and a large cast from the company who had gathered around him in Paris to dramatise The Mahabharata: the Sanskrit epic of the mighty Bharata family torn apart by a great war. The result was nine hours of mesmerising epic theatre, which I was fortunate enough to see in a Glasgow tramshed transformed by red earth into the Indian subcontinent. Now aged 90, working with his long-term collaborator Marie-Hélène Estienne, he returns to just one section of the mighty epic, which they’ve called Battlefield.