Monthly Archives: March 2017

A Dark Night in Dalston *** a night of discovery @ParkTheatre that will keep you guessing

Some years back, I interviewed for radio Rabbi Jonathan Black, making a cameo appearance in East Enders conducting a Jewish wedding. Not a viewer, I duly researched by watching an omnibus edition and learned how you ‘gotta talk’! (Non-Orthodox) Jewish playwright Stewart Permutt, did his research by consulting a Charedi friend. So there’s a real authenticity about his protagonist Gideon – what brands of bread and crisps he can eat (Kingsmill and Walkers) and what he cannot drink from (glass).

Permutt has form writing strong female characters, often for well-known TV stars – Lesley Joseph, Celia Imrie and the much-missed Miriam Karlin.

His latest play was specially commissioned by Eastenders and Coronation Street star, Michelle Collins, who was actually born in Hackney. Collin’s maternal grandfather was a Belgian Jew who moved to Wales to escape the Holocaust. Having played the confused mother Evelyn in Diane Samuels’ Kindertransport, Collins searched for another dramatic stage role. So she proactively commissioned a play with a juicy part for herself.

The resulting two-hander is a present-day drama set in the East End flat of Collins’ character Gina, a feisty, friendly ex-nurse living on a Dalston council estate, whose days are filled caring for her partner, bed-bound after a stroke. When young Orthodox Jew Gideon (Joe Coen), is beaten up one Friday night on her doorstep, Gina takes him in. But Shabbat has begun and this strictly observant Jew can’t travel home to Stanmore, so he is forced to spend the night with her, a night during which they find themselves drawn to each other as regrets about their lives emerge.



Tim Stark directs this dark comedy exploring the “madness of the human condition”, as he says, with a sensitive ear for the dialogue so that the evolving emotional conflict is genuinely involving. Simon Shaw’s set beautifully evokes (now ex) Council flats, with their signature external landings. However, it’s a challenge to sustain dramatic tension over a scenario that doesn’t evolve sufficiently during its playing time, so it might benefit from losing a few of its 105 minutes.

Collins and Coen admirably inhabit their characters despite gaps in their development over the drama’s duration. Collins convincingly captures the conflicted Gina, and her small-screen acting is well suited to the intimate Park90 space. Joe Coen, fresh from The Mighty Walzer and Bad Jews, invests Gideon with that curious mix of self-righteousness and self-knowing often seen in the ultra-orthodox of whatever religion. Their final scenes together are touching, bringing out the common bonds shared by the characters and the chemistry between the actors.

A Dark Night in Dalston is a good night out, given enough good will and patience to discover Gina and Gideon’s deep-seated needs and hopes.

by Judi Herman

Photos by Helen Murray

to 1 April: 7.45pm (Mon-Sat), 3.15pm (Thu & Sat only). £18, £16.50 concs.

Park Theatre, N4 3JP. 020 7870 6876.www.parktheatre.co.uk

 

Review: TAU film students’ shorts are long on talent and originality at the 10th anniversary showcase

Roads by Lior Geller

This was the 10th anniversary of the Tel Aviv University (TAU) Trust’s gala UK showcase for students of The Steve Tisch School of Film & Television. Almost every Israeli film produced in the last 10 years has been made by alumni of the school and the evening gives an opportunity for four aspiring filmmakers to show their developing talent in a series of shorts.

This year the chosen films represent not only life in contemporary Israel for both Arabs and Jews, but also a documentary and a surrealist feature. There’s no doubting the creativity and originality of the work and it’s not surprising that previous entries and their directors have gone on to be recognised internationally.

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JR OutLoud: Debbie Chazen, the only Jewish Calendar Girl, talks about her new musical The Girls


First it was a play, then a film and now Calendar Girls has been made into a musical – already nominated for several Olivier Awards – with book and lyrics  by Tim Firth, who wrote the play and co-wrote the film script (with Juliette Towhidi), and music by Gary Barlow.

The Girls tells the true story of members of a Yorkshire branch of the Women’s Institute who had the idea of posing for a nude calendar to raise money for Leukaemia Research, when the husband of one of the girls became ill and died from the disease.

As all the girls of the title are nominated jointly for an Olivier Award, Judi Herman spoke to Debbie Chazen, who has the distinction of being the only Jewish ‘girl’, as well as the only one who appeared in the original stage play.

Photo by Matt Crockett, Dewynters

The Girls runs until Saturday 15 July. 7.30pm (Tue-Sat), 2.30pm (Thu & Sat, plus Tue from 25 Apr). £29.50-£69.50. Phoenix Theatre, WC2H 0JP. 0844 871 7627.        www.phoenixtheatrelondon.co.uk

Click here to listen to more interviews on JR OutLoud.