Category Archives: Interviews

Rose comes HOME: Richard Beecham and Janet Suzman discuss the play’s return in Manchester

“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’.”

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If This is a Man 70 years on: AL Kennedy discusses an anniversary reading of the Primo Levi novel

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.

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JR OutLoud: As Shakespeare’s Merchant finally arrives in Venice, we speak to actor Paul Spera

As the long-awaited date of the first performance of The Merchant of Venice in the Venice Ghetto itself arrives this week, in the last of our series of interviews with members of the company, JR’s arts editor Judi Herman talks to French-American actor Paul Spera. Based in Paris, Spera plays Lorenzo, the Christian youth who elopes with Shylock’s daughter, Jessica – and plenty of his money and jewels – thus goading the distraught father into seeking the revenge that leads to his demand for the famous pound of flesh from Antonio, the merchant of the title. Spera is interesting casting for the role of the Christian lad who steals away with the Jewish girl as he is half Jewish himself. And so we come full circle with this series of interviews with members of Compagnia de Colombari, for we began with Michelle Uranowitz aka Jessica herself.

www.themerchantinvenice.org

JR OutLoud: As Shakespeare’s Merchant finally arrives in Venice, we speak to actress Francesca Sarah Toich

As the long-awaited date of the first performance of The Merchant of Venice in the Venice Ghetto itself arrives this week, in the last of our series of interviews with members of the company, JR’s arts editor Judi Herman talks to actress Francesca Sarah Toich. Playing the role of Lancillotto, the servant to Shylock and confidante of Jessica, his daughter, normally a male role, but here intriguingly played by Toich, as a sort of cross-gender Harlequin figure. Italy-based Francesca is an award-winning performer who combines skills and experience in the very physical Commedia dell Arte tradition with a huge vocal range.

www.themerchantinvenice.org

JR OutLoud: Jenni Lea-Jones talks to JR about her role in The Merchant in Venice at Venice Ghetto 500


In the next of our chats with members of the cast and creative team of the very first production of The Merchant of Venice to be staged in the Venice Ghetto itself, Judi Herman talks to Welsh actress Jenni Lea-Jones, who has relocated to Venice and is perhaps the most unusual of the five performers sharing the role of Shylock in the show they are calling The Merchant in Venice. Apologies for the quality of the line at the start of this conversation, which happily soon improves.

www.themerchantinvenice.org

JR OutLoud: Frank London talks to JR about composing for The Merchant in Venice at Venice Ghetto 500


In the next of our chats with members of the cast and creative team of the very first production of The Merchant of Venice to be staged in the Venice Ghetto itself, Judi Herman talks to Frank London, composer and musician. The Grammy-winning trumpeter and composer, founder of the Klezmatics and leader of bhangra/Yiddish group Sharabi (with Deep Singh), Shekhinah Big Band, and his Klezmer Brass Allstars is no stranger to large-scale collaborative projects, or of course to Jewish-themed work. Here he talks about the musicians who are working with him on this project and his inspirations for the music that will be heard in the Ghetto.

www.themerchantinvenice.org

See Alexandra & Nikole Stoica, the twin violin virtuosos from Romania that Frank talks about, who will play in the production: www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmg-mPSAeCE

Hear music by Salomone Rossi (his beautiful Kaddish – the mourner’s prayer), the 17th-century, Italian-Jewish composer, who was one the inspirations that Frank mentions: www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBBXYsdt8Jk

Interview: Shaul Bassi discusses the mock appeal to be heard alongside Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, which is being performed in the Venice Ghetto for the first time

Shaul Bassi

In July, as Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is performed in the Venice Ghetto for the very first time, a trial featuring advocates for Shylock, Antonio and Portia will take place in Venice’s Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Will it overturn the verdict from the play, in which Shylock is tried, found guilty of threatening the life of a Venetian, and then fined and forced to convert to Christianity? Shaul Bassi, director of Beit Venezia: A Home for Jewish Culture, and one of the movers behind the city’s Jewish cultural events this year, reveals his side of the story.

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JR OutLoud: Table tennis champ Jeff Ingber talks about travelling the world playing the beautiful game

Jeff Ingber, table tennis champion for decades from the mid-20th century and one of Howard Jacobson’s heroes, met up with JR’s arts editor Judi Herman at the exhibition Chess in Shorts that accompanies the production of the Mighty Walzer at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre. Ingber told Judi about playing the other beautiful game in Manchester and how it was his passport to travel the world, from Israel to China.

Chess in Shorts, an exhibition by Howard Jacobson and Manchester Jewish Museum, runs until Saturday 30 July, FREE, at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, M2 7DH. www.royalexchange.co.uk

The Mighty Walzer runs until Saturday 30 July, 7.30pm & 2.30pm, £8-£16, at Royal Exchange Theatre.

Read our review of The Mighty Walzer and our interview with the show’s playwright and actor, Simon Bent and Elliot Levey.

JR OutLoud: Davina Moss talks to JR about her role in the production they’re calling The Merchant in Venice at Venice Ghetto 500

davina moss c Andrea Messana

© Andrea Messana (L-R Ned Eisenberg (Shylock 5 and Tubal), Nerina Cocchi (stage manager and assistant director), Davina Moss (assistant dramaturg) and Gigi Buffington (voice and text coach)

An update from Italy: Davina Moss writes:

“Rehearsals are going well! We’ve gone from table work to staging and it’s important to figure out the geometry of the space. Everyone is very excited with how the project is progressing and we’re making some very cool discoveries in the rehearsal room. In this photograph you see us debating over a line in the trial scene, which different versions of the play have different wordings for.”

As the celebrations to mark the 500th anniversary of the Venice Ghetto continue, excitement mounts over the first ever performances of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice in the Ghetto itself (26-31 July). In the next of a series of interviews with members of the cast and creative team, JR’s arts editor Judi Herman talks to Londoner Davina Moss, currently studying dramaturgy at university in New York, to find out more about her role as assistant dramaturg on this unique production.

Visit www.themerchantinvenice.org for more info.

Interview: Playwright Simon Bent and actor Elliot Levey talk life in Manchester and bringing Howard Jacobson’s comic novel The Mighty Walzer to the stage

01RET Rehearsal The Might Walzer Elliot Levey (Oliver Walzer) photo Jonathan Keenan

© Jonathan Keenan

“It became a very exotic place for me.” Simon Bent is talking about the Manchester of the 1950s, the setting of Howard Jacobson’s mighty tale of table tennis, teenage angst and Jewish family life. “What attracted me to the book is that it’s about a particular culture at a particular time which is gone. Part of the book is about the loss of that Manchester. It was Howard’s attempt to ‘get down’ that world before it got lost.”

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