Some fantastic shows are visiting the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year, plenty of which have a Jewish cultural interest. There are even a few that our Arts Editor Judi Herman has already reviewed from previous runs and spoken to creatives behind the productions in some cases, so we thought it’d be great to revisit those. Below you’ll find the listings info for Knock Knock, The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, and Kafka and Son, as well as links to the theatre reviews and JR OutLoud podcasts.
Writer/performer Hadar Galron is the inspirational artistic director of the three-day-long International Shalom Festival taking place at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this month. Its mission is to “build cultural bridges and celebrate coexistence and peace” by bringing artists from both the Israeli and Palestinian communities to share a dialogue with visitors to the festival. Here she tells Judi Herman more about the packed three days of the Festival – and how she plans to combat anti-Israel protesters like BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) by shedding some real light in Edinburgh.
The International Shalom Festival runs Tuesday 8 – Thursday 10 August. Times vary. Donations on the door. Venue 340, Drummond Community High School, Edinburgh, EH7 4BS. www.shalomfestival.org
Silver Birch – a newly-commissioned community opera about the toll war takes on soldiers and their families – will be premiering at Garsington Opera near High Wycombe this weekend (28-30 July). Ahead of that Judi Herman spoke to novelist and journalist Jessica Duchen, who has written the libretto for composer Roxanna Panufnik’s score. The performance features the poetry of Siegfried Sassoon and, in fact, Sassoon’s great-nephew Stephen Bucknill is one of the 180-strong company that includes local adults, school children, students, members of the local military community and even Foley artists, all appearing alongside professional singers. Judi spoke also to Stephen Bucknill; and to one of the 50 primary school children taking part, eight-year-old Maia Greaves, who shares the role of Chloe, the younger sister of Jack and Davey, the two soldiers at the heart of a story set in the present day, with echoes of the Great War provided by Sassoon’s poetry, and his ghostly presence onstage.
Silver Birch runs Friday 28 – Sunday 30 July. 7.30pm. £5. Garsington Opera, Wormsley Estate, HP14 3YE. 018 6536 1636. www.garsingtonopera.org
Hundreds thronged to Manchester’s Jewish Museum on Sunday 2 July for the first Jewish Arts Festival For All (JAFFA). Jews of all ages were joined by those of other faiths for a fun-filled day of food, music, art and entertainment.
The Lord Mayor of Manchester – who spent almost two hours at the festival with his wife – chose as his theme for a year that has seen the city’s emergence from the horrendous terrorist attack, “to promote community cohesion and mutual respect amongst and between the city’s diverse communities and individuals” and t was certainly in evidence on Sunday.
Hodl is the second daughter of Tevye, the poor dairyman whose family are at the heart of one of the world’s favourite musicals. She falls in love with Perchik, a student and revolutionary, and follows him into exile in Siberia.
“When I got the phone call that I’d been offered [the part], I burst into tears,” says Kingston. Listen as she tells Judi Herman why, and much more about her research for the part, including reading Shalom Aleichem’s original stories on which the musical is based. The actor also discusses her Jewish upbringing; how she and fellow Jewish cast member Tracy-Ann Oberman (who plays Tevye’s wife, Golde) share insights with the rest of the cast; and the joy of rehearsals with Iranian-born actor and comic Omid Djalili in the role of Tevye.
Fiddler on the Roof runs Monday 10 July – Saturday 2 September. 7.30pm, 2.30pm (various Wed, Thu & Sat: phone to confirm). From £10. Chichester Festival Theatre, PO19 6AP. 012 4378 1312. www.cft.org.uk
Click here to read our review of Fiddler on the Roof.
From the moment Janet Suzman, as Rose, appeared dressed all in black, sitting on a single white bench on an empty stage, the audience was gripped.
Rose was sitting shiva, and as her story unfolded over the next two hours, recounting her journey from a Ukrainian shtetl through all the vicissitudes of a Jewish 20th Century, she sat shiva repeatedly. Each time – for a parent, a child, a husband, victims of the repeated manifestations of antisemitism – a slender shower of sand descending from a hole in the roof of the stage was the only visual accompaniment to Rose’s narrative.
“There is no more demanding role in the canon than Rose,” declared Richard Beecham, director of the first UK revival of Martin Sherman’s award-winning play, which premiered at the National Theatre in 1999.
This one-actor tour de force about persecution, displacement and survival stars Dame Janet Suzman in what Beecham describes as an “extraordinary role for an older actress” and runs at HOME, Manchester, until Saturday 10 June. “Older chaps get the parts,” he explained when he and Suzman spoke to the press prior to the play’s opening. She agreed that there were too few roles for older actresses and interjected with a wry smile: “I can understand why Glenda Jackson said ‘bugger it – I’ll play King Lear’.”
Writer Samantha Ellis talks to Judi Herman about her new play. The Only Jew in England tells the story of Dom Marco Raphael, the Venetian Rabbi who is said to have been consulted by Henry VIII over his divorce from Anne Boleyn. Ellis’s drama imagines Raphael’s life at court, rubbing shoulders with the greats, along with the king’s musicians, who may also be secret Jews. It’s performed by actors/musicians from E15 Acting School and directed by Matthew Lloyd (of the verbatim drama Listen, We’re Family).
The Only Jew in England runs Thursday 18 – Saturday 20 May. 7.30pm (Thu & Fri only), 2.30pm (Sat only). Donations on the door. Queen’s Theatre, RM11 1QT. 017 0844 3333. www.queens-theatre.co.uk
Playwright Cordelia O’Neill talks to Judi Herman about her powerfully imagined drama, No Place for a Woman, the story of two women caught up in the Holocaust. At concentration camp commandant Fredrick’s orders, Jewish ballerina and internee Isabella is ordered to dance for guests at the party his wife Annie is throwing and their lives become inextricably intertwined.
Click here to read our review of of No Place for a Woman.
No Place for a Woman runs until Saturday 27 May. 7.45pm (Tue-Sat), 3pm (Wed & Sat only). £15, £12 concs. Theatre 503, SW11 3BW. 020 7978 7040. www.theatre503.com
At 3.15 pm on Sunday 30 April a cast of actors, writers and academics amongst others will read from the first page of Primo Levi’s seminal novel If This is a Man. Taking on chunks of the text each to read aloud, they will only stop when they reach the novel’s final page – an estimated six-hour feat. This unique reading is taking place at London’s Southbank Centre to mark 70 years since the publication of Levi’s harrowing account of the year he spent in Auschwitz concentration camp when he was 23 years old.
We spoke to one of the curators of the event, novelist AL Kennedy, about why the book remains so significant today.