Category Archives: Theatre

An Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 round-up in reviews

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.

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JR reviews two ★★★★ picks from Edinburgh’s International Shalom Festival: rap opera The City and documentary Disturbing the Peace

The City ★★★★ – Israel’s Incubator Theatre makes its Edinburgh debut at Shalom – just three years after protests prevented it from being part of the Festival Fringe

One highlight of the International Shalom Festival is the return to Edinburgh of Jerusalem’s Incubator Theatre with their hip-hop opera The City, a clever homage to all those private dicks who walk the mean streets of the city trying to solve crime. The City is entirely written in rhyme, combining rap, hip-hop and spoken word to tell a tale of vanity, lust and murder. This is the company targeted by pro-Palestinian demonstrators in 2014, which meant they were unable to perform at the Fringe. So it’s all the more exciting and gratifying that they are at last making their proper Edinburgh debut. When JR’s Arts Editor Judi Herman saw The City at JW3, London, where it played three sold-out performances in the aftermath of the Edinburgh protests, she was inspired to write the following four-star review in rhyme.

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JR OutLoud: London wordsmith Jessica Duchen talks about her involvement in the new community opera Silver Birch

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

Click here to listen to more JR OutLoud podcasts.

Review: Fiddler on the Roof ★★★★ – Raising the roof at Chichester Festival Theatre

I am grateful to my Bubbe, who arrived in London from the Pale of Settlement in 1890, cradling the first of her 10 children, my beloved grandma. And equally to the paternal grandfather I sadly never met, who made his painful way to Britain from Bobruisk, Belarus, despite his gammy leg. Thanks to them my family thrived here rather than perishing in a pit in the Holocaust. But did they leave voluntarily, or were they pushed out like the Jews of Anatevka?

Daniel Evans’ beautifully thought-through production made me ponder this question more than any previous incarnation of this much-loved musical, based on Shalom Aleichem’s equally-loved tales. Gloriously funny though it may be when appropriate, it provokes thought as well as sentimental tears, starting with the eloquent opening, which actually has these Jews arriving to set up home in Anatevka from wherever else they have fled or been ejected.

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Review: The Mentor ★★★ – Daniel Kehlmann’s waspish wit makes intellectual sparks fly

Narcissism is trending, so Germany’s wunderkind Daniel Kehlmann (bigger there than JK Rowling) is in tune with the Zeitgeist in this tale of an ageing literary lion seeing off the threat of a cub writer by rubbishing the work he’s supposed to be nurturing. Literary legend Benjamin Rubin (F Murray Abraham) still dines out on the hit play he wrote in his youth – a lucrative meal ticket as he’s mentoring budding playwright Martin Wegner for just one week under a prize scheme that earns both writers €10,000.

There’s no denying the elegance of Kehlmann’s set up. First dibs goes to Rubin, who gets to establish his character with insecurities about being a one-hit wonder – his querulous nature flagged up by a list of demands, including his Scotch of choice. It’s enough to try the patience of ineffectual arts administrator Erwin Rudiceck, presiding uneasily over this battle of egos. The names suggest the European location of Kehlmann’s play (Rudiceck is Czech, Wegner German, Rubin alone could be a Jew from either side of the Atlantic), though Polly Sullivan’s lush villa setting (it’s Rudiceck’s incidentally), with its wonderfully pretentious chairs that ape huge sculptured hands, sits as well in New England as, say, in the old country of Mittel Europa. Aspiring artist Rudiceck is looking for approval for his own artistic oeuvre, monochrome mood pictures handily displayed on his phone.

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JR OutLoud: British actor Emma Kingston talks about playing the role of Hodl in Fiddler on the Roof

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.

Click here to listen to more interviews and audio tours of exhibitions on JR OutLoud.

Review: Charlotte – A Tri-Coloured Play with Music ★★★★ – Charlotte Salomon’s autobiographical work explodes onto the stage in glorious tri-colour

Charlotte Salomon produced an extraordinary series of autobiographical gouaches with texts. She overlaid them on transparent paper or wrote straight onto her paintings to provide dialogue, comments and even suggestions of musical accompaniments. Salomon provides a unique account of Jewish family life in Germany, and later France, spanning the troubled years from before World War I until the height of World War II, when she created work in the South of France, before her deportation to Auschwitz in 1943, aged just 26.

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Review: Working ★★★★ – America’s workers find their voice in a musical that really works

“All gone to look for America” sang Simon and Garfunkel in 1968. In 1974 oral historian and broadcaster Studs Terkel found America by conducting a series of free-form interviews with so-called ‘ordinary’ people – from labourers to teachers – about their working lives. Uninterrupted by their interviewer, they spoke freely about the meaning they found in their work – and its part in the meaning of their lives. The resulting book is a bestseller still.

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Review: La Strada ★★★★ – Fellini’s bleak and beautiful road movie makes for a haunting musical journey on stage

Kenny Wax is an eclectic producer, responsible for the spectacular award-winning Top Hat, Hollywood musical turned West End show; enchanting children’s shows, including Olivier- nominated Room on the Broom; and now Fellini’s 1954 film La Strada. All are musical adaptations, reimagined with originality and sensitivity, each by the right team for the job.

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Review: Rose ★★★★ – We expected a tour de force and were not disappointed

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.

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