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
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.
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
Ahead of its run at Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate, Daniel Donskoy performed A Song Goes Round the World – his show of European chansons – for the residents of Selig Court. Many of those who live in these independent living apartments on Jewish Care’s Maurice and Vivienne Wohl Campus are survivors of Nazi persecution. Donskoy sings in many languages, including Yiddish, to bring people together in a fractured Europe. Judi Herman was there to meet Donskoy and the residents, to hear their stories – and of course Donskoy’s glorious vocals, accompanied by MD Inga Davis-Rutter on piano.
A Song Goes Round the World runs Tuesday 25 – Sunday 30 April. 7.30pm, 4pm (Sun only). £18, £16 concs. Upstairs at the Gatehouse, N6 4BD. 020 8340 3488. www.upstairsatthegatehouse.com
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.