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
It’s Dora Reisser’s ability to reinvent herself – from child refugee to prima ballerina, actor, screen star and fashion designer – and in such nail-biting circumstances, that makes her memoir, Dora’s Story, so gripping. Judi Herman visited Reisser at her remarkable London home (it used to be a railway station) to hear more of the stories behind her book, which begins with the little-known history of how Bulgaria’s Jews survived the Holocaust; and about her life in the UK and Israel, including an eye-opening account of how she started her Reisser fashion house – just one of the many new stories Reisser has that could fill a sequel.
Dora’s Story by Dora Reisser is out on Troubador. £9.99. www.troubador.co.uk
Following a visit to Auschwitz in 2012, Sira Soetendorp felt a deep need to preserve the memory of all the lost family members. The Dutch artist used carved outlines drawn in oil paint to fashion portraits based on family photographs, which make up her exhibition Vanished Families. Here she discusses the exhibit with JR’s Arts Editor Judi Herman, plus you will hear Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp, Sira’s husband and Emeritus Rabbi of the Hague, who is an award-winning human rights advocate.
Vanished Families runs until Monday 27 February at Etz Chayim Gallery, Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue, HA6 3AA. 019 2382 2592. Viewing by appointment: email@example.com. www.npls.org.uk/etzchayim.htm
Janet Haig is one of the ceramicists whose pieces (pictured above), as well as a film showing how she works, are featured in Shaping Ceramics at the Jewish Museum London. The exhibition explores the work of pioneering ceramicists, tracing their influence on subsequent generations of ceramic artists whose Jewish heritage has shaped their work. Polish-born artist Haig joins JR’s arts editor Judi Herman here for a very personal tour of the exhibition, discussing the experiences that have moulded her work: from the hardships of the war years in a Siberian prison camp with her mother, to her formative childhood in Australia (where she studied painting) after they discovered that their closest family had perished in the Holocaust, to her arrival in the UK in 1962 and work teaching in a boys’ school.
Haig reveals that her first inspiration might go back as far as those harsh days in Siberia: “My mother was able to take one object with her [to Siberia] and she suddenly saw this little pot (I still have it in my possession), which she grabbed hold of because, as I was a baby, she thought it would be useful to warm things up. It’s enamel, blue on the outside, white on the inside and maybe that has had some kind of inspiration on my pots.”
Shaping Ceramics: From Lucie Rie to Edmund de Waal runs until Sunday 26 February, at Jewish Museum, NW1 7NB. 020 7284 7384. www.jewishmuseum.org.uk
Watch ceramic artist Janet Haig demonstrate the ancient pottery-making technique of hand building on Monday 23 January, 11.30am-12.30pm, £7.50, £6.50 concs, at Jewish Museum, NW1 7NB. 020 7284 7384. www.jewishmuseum.org.uk
Continue reading to see images of work featured in the exhibition, as mentioned in the interview; and find out more about key artists in the exhibition in the January 2017 issue of Jewish Renaissance.
When Harry is talked down from throwing himself off a Bridge by old school friend Milt, who luckily happens to be passing, his life takes a different direction as he finds love in this 1963 comedy from Murray Schisgal. He’s the prominent New York Jewish writer responsible for Tootsie, Dustin Hoffman’s cross-dressing film comedy hit. Here Charles Dorfman talks to Judi Herman about finding LUV and playing Harry; his co-stars Nick Barber and Elsie Bennett; his collaboration with director Gary Condes; and Dorfman’s Buckland Theatre Company, resident company at Park Theatre’s studio space, Park 90.
LUV runs until Saturday 7 January. 7.45pm (Tue-Sat), 7pm (13 Dec only), 3.15pm (Thu & Sat). £14.50-£18. Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, N4 3JP. 020 7870 6876. www.parktheatre.co.uk
Imam Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini, Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers and Reverend Steven Young tell Judi Herman about their hopes and fears for their very first comedy gig. An Imam, a Rabbi and a Priest Walk into a Comedy Club is taking place as part of JW3’s third annual UK Jewish Comedy Festival. And for an extra treat, hear Imam Muhammad demonstrate his prize-winning singing in Gaelic at the end of his chat with Judi!
An Imam, a Rabbi and a Priest Walk into a Comedy Club (with Q&A) is on Sunday 4 December, 5.30-6.30pm, £12, at JW3, London NW3 6ET; 020 7433 8988. www.jw3.org.uk/comedy
Australian-Israeli comedian, actor and human rights lawyer Jeremie Bracka will be making his London debut on night one of JW3’s UK Jewish Comedy Festival (1-4 Dec). Here he talks to Judi Herman, JR’s arts editor, about life in the Middle East and Down Under, as well as his latest one-man show, Thank you for Flying Hell-Al, in which he uses storytelling, stand-up, character comedy and mockumentary to explore life in Israel and the experience of making Aliyah.
Thank you for Flying Hell-Al is on Thursday 1 December, 8.30pm, £15, at JW3, NW3 6ET; 020 7433 8989. www.jw3.org.uk
Writer/performer Niv Petel’s one-man show Knock Knock is an explicit, heartbreaking account of the agony faced by bereaved parents of young Israeli soldiers killed during compulsory army service. The dreaded ‘knock knock’ at the door means a trained army therapist has come to tell you the worst. Petel spoke to JR’s arts editor Judi Herman on the stage of the Etcetera Theatre immediately after the show.
Photo by Chris Gardner
Knock Knock runs until Sunday 6 November, 7.30pm & 6.30pm, £8-£10, at Etcetera Theatre, 265 Camden High St, NW1 7BU; 020 7482 4857. www.etceteratheatre.com
Samantha Ellis’s play How to Date a Feminist is currently on at Arcola Theatre. Her heroine is Kate, a journalist who happens to be Jewish. She also happens to have a fatal attraction to bad men. Her hero is Steve, a feminist who happens to be a man. His mum brought him up at the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, her dad is an Israeli brought up in a refugee camp. With these characters Ellis explores love in the 21st century.
Samantha talks about her influences, including vintage screwball Hollywood comedies, her own background, growing up in London with Iraqi Jewish parents, and her other plays and books.
Photo by Nick Rutter
How to Date a Feminist runs until Saturday 1 October, 8pm & 3.30pm, £17, £14 concs, at the Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin St, E8 3DL; 020 7503 1646. www.arcolatheatre.com
Playwright Alix Sobler talks to JR’s arts editor Judi Herman via Skype about her award-winning play The Great Divide, about the fight for equal pay and unionisation in American garment factories and about the resonance that The Great Divide has today. Inspired by true events, the play tells the story of a fire in a New York garment factory that killed 146 workers – mostly women and mostly Jewish immigrants.
The Great Divide runs Sunday 4 – Tuesday 20 September, 7.30pm & 2pm, £18, £16 concs, at the Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Rd, SW10 9ED. www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk
Photo by Luckygirl Photography