Chief examiner Mr Burgess, played with thrilling comic cruelty by Steven Pacey, sets his latest cohort of four would-be London Taxi drivers the task of committing to memory all 320 routes, 15,842 streets and all places of interest on the way within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross. “No taxi driver in no other city in no other country in the world has to know a fraction of what you have to know. And not many brain surgeons neither.” The late Jack Rosenthal’s 1979 play for TV exploring the impact of this almost impossible challenge (70% drop-out rate then and some 25,000 streets now) is adapted for the stage by Simon Block and directed with comic verve by Rosenthal’s wife for 30 years Maureen Lipman, who appeared in the TV drama.
In New York in a bachelor pad high over the Hudson River, cousins Liam and Daphna go head-to-head over a treasured heirloom left by their beloved grandfather, Poppy. Emotions are raw as they mourn his recent death and feelings run high – sometimes shockingly so – for at stake is not just Poppy’s Chai (a neck chain with the Hebrew letter that symbolises life), but a whole set of issues about family and identity and faith. Liam’s brother Jonah and his fiançée Melody don’t just watch from the sidelines either, but enter the fray as it becomes more scabrous and the battle more physical. Thus unfurls the dangerous, yet funny debut play by Joshua Harmon, which is now enjoying its third successful run – the second in London – at the Arts Theatre. Judi Herman caught up with cast members Jenna Augen (Daphna) and Ilan Goodman (Liam) to talk about battling it out live on stage.
By Judi Herman
Bad Jews runs until Saturday 30 May. 7.30pm & 2.30pm (Thu/Sat ony). £20-£49.50. Arts Theatre, Great Newport St, WC2H 7JB; 020 7836 8463. www.artstheatrewestend.co.uk
Read our review of Bad Jews.
Daphna is angry. She’s back from her Ivy League college and is storming petulantly around a claustrophobically small studio apartment like a disgruntled toddler. Her cousin Jonah (Joe Coen) tries relentlessly to ignore the young tyrant as she moans about the fact that Jonah’s brother Liam (Ilan Goodman) has missed their Poppy’s (grandpa) funeral because he was skiing in Aspen with his girlfriend, who isn’t even Jewish. This opening scene sets the audience up perfectly for what’s to come – an hour and a half of increasingly un-passive aggression that’s full of belly laughs.